Take Care Health Matters is a project of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC). CCJRC works to help justice involved people connect with needed health care coverage and services. Founded in 1999, CCJRC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to eliminate the overuse of the criminal justice system and advance community health and safety.

Better access to health care not only improves the quality of life for individuals, it is also essential in the decades-long effort to end the “war on drugs” and anchor drug policy more appropriately into health care and harm reduction strategies and dramatically less in criminal justice. In 2013, CCJRC launched our Take Care Health Matters project to specifically improve health care coverage and access for justice involved people.

Why it Matters

  • On any given day, over 120,000 individuals are involved in the criminal justice system in Colorado. It is estimated 70% – 90% will be eligible for Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program).
  • Enrolling justice involved people in Health First Colorado and/or Medicare allows more cost flexibility and creativity for the criminal justice system to use resources currently being spent on health care.
  • People over 50 years old are one of the fastest growing prison populations. According to the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC), during the past 10 years the proportion of inmates over the age of 50 has increased over 5% while the overall prison population has decreased by 23%.
  • According to the FY20 CDOC Annual Statistical Report, 76% of women incarcerated in Colorado state prisons had a moderate to high need for substance use disorder treatment, 80% needed mental health treatment and 43% needed medical care.
  • According to the FY20 CDOC Annual Statistical Report, 72% of men incarcerated in Colorado state prisons had a moderate to high need for substance use disorder treatment, 30% needed mental health treatment and 29% needed medical care.
  • Access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment and care has been shown to reduce rates of recidivism.
  • According to FAMM, by 2030, people over the age of 55 will make up approximately one-third of the prison population.
  • Research shows that it is critical to connect individuals to health care and treatment services within the first two weeks post-release as it is a vulnerable time for justice involved individuals. Homelessness, high stress, and an increased risk of overdose are prevalent during this timeframe. Access to health and behavioral health care services can help.
  • Prisons and jails will achieve cost-savings by reducing the amount of resources spent on overnight medical care thanks to health care reform.
  • Improved access to health care and treatment services upon returning to the community has been shown to increase reduce recidivism rates and improve health and safety outcomes.
  • Providing justice involved individuals with health care coverage and connecting them with community health care providers will reduce the use of emergency rooms and other costly means of accessing health care services.
  • Dental care is extremely important in helping one recover and be successful in the community. Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program) offers dental benefits!

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