HEALTH & JUSTICE IN THE NEWS
Date: July 12, 2018
New on TASC's Blog
Webinar Delivers Opioid Screening and Assessment Solutions for Law Enforcement, Justice Practitioners
TASC Blog, 7/12/18
More than 1,300 people across the country registered for a July 10 webinar offering solutions for law enforcement and justice system partners on the front lines of responding to the national opioid epidemic. The webinar, entitled "Opioid Addiction Screening and Assessment for People in the Criminal Justice System," focuses on best practices for screening and assessing people who have opioid addictions and are in, or at risk of entering, the criminal justice system. Speakers on screening tools and intervention strategies included Roger Peters, PhD, clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida, as well as Jac Charlier and Phillip Barbour of the Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC. "The tremendous interest in the webinar and these tools speaks to the interest in screening and opioids right now, as law enforcement, justice partners, researchers, behavioral health experts, and community leaders are all coming together to find ways to save lives," said Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at CHJ. "Screening tools are one of the quickest and easiest ways to identify people who need help right away."
Around the Nation
Food Stamp Work Requirements Would Force States to Provide Job Training. Many Aren't Ready.
Governing | Stateline, 7/11/18
The House version of the food-stamp-to-work program Congress is considering this week would require recipients to enroll in job training programs if they can't find work - but in many states, those programs won't be fully available for at least another decade. This will have a big impact on the people who depend on food stamps, some 42 million in 2017. The average beneficiary receives about $125 a month, and a family of four must have an annual income of about $25,000 or less to qualify. Many are already working. Lawmakers' effort to increase work requirements continues a trend in the past year of asking impoverished families to put so-called "skin in the game" when receiving government benefits. In this case, the families don't have full control over what's being required of them: If Congress requires more food stamp recipients to get jobs, states will have to greatly expand training programs to comply with federal law. States that don't offer training for beneficiaries who are required to work could lose federal funding.
Trump Administration Cuts Grants to Help People Get Obamacare
The Trump administration is cutting most of the funds previously provided to groups that help people get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and will push them to promote plans lacking the law's benefits and protections, a government agency said on Tuesday. Under the latest cuts, so-called navigators who sign up Americans for the ACA, also known as Obamacare, will get $10 million for the year starting in November, down from $36.8 million in the previous year, according to a statement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This follows a reduction announced by the CMS last August from $62.5 million, along with an even bigger cut to advertising for enrollment, and represents the latest in a series of moves to weaken the ACA by the administration of President Donald Trump. Navigators will be "encouraged to demonstrate how they provide information to people who may be unaware of the range of available coverage options in addition to qualified health plans, such as association health plans, short-term, limited-duration insurance and health reimbursement arrangements," the CMS statement said.
System for reporting suspicious opioid orders repeatedly failed, report finds
A Senate report released Thursday lays out systematic failures in the reporting system for suspicious opioid orders, faulting some drug distributors and manufacturers for their roles and criticizing the Drug Enforcement Administration for a years-long lull in enforcement actions. Suspicious painkiller shipments have been a focus for lawmakers working to stem the opioid crisis, ranging from a contentious House hearing to McCaskill's ongoing investigations and even surfacing Wednesday at a confirmation hearing for Jim Carroll, President Trump's nominee as "drug czar." McCaskill's latest report found that "certain major distributors and manufacturers have consistently failed to meet their anti-diversion obligations."
DOJ unveils proposal giving feds more power to limit opioid production
The Hill, 7/11/18
The Department of Justice (DOJ) finalized a proposal Wednesday giving the agency more power to control how many opioids are produced annually in the U.S. Under the proposal, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could issue stricter limits on certain opioids if federal authorities believe they are being misused. The DEA currently sets annual quotas for how many opioids can be manufactured after accounting for a number of factors, including demand. The proposed regulation would allow the agency to also consider the extent that a drug is misused.
Cities Planning Supervised Drug Injection Sites Fear Justice Department Reaction
In parts of the country hit hard by addiction, some public health officials are considering running sites where people can use heroin and other illegal drugs under medical supervision. Advocates say these facilities, known as supervised injection sites, save lives that would otherwise be lost to overdoses and provide a bridge to treatment. There are at least 13 efforts underway in U.S. cities and states to start an official supervised injection site - with advocates in several cities saying they want to be the first. And the forms vary. Seattle is planning a safe injection van; Philadelphia is considering pop-up tents; some elected officials in places like Denver, Vermont, Delaware and San Francisco, are trying to gather support for proposals. Harm reduction advocates hope supervised injection sites can follow the path of needle exchange programs which have gained wider acceptance over the years, thanks to their role in containing the spread of HIV and AIDS. There are now needle exchange programs in 39 states. But many safe injection site proposals seem to be waylaid in community debate and legal uncertainty. Scott Burris, director of Temple University's Center for Public Health Law Research, says municipalities are worried about a showdown with Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice.
Suicide in Illinois a bigger crisis than homicide
Illinois News Network, 7/9/18
Suicide rates in Illinois have increased by nearly 25 percent, mirroring national trends. With a state total of 1,415 suicides in Illinois in 2016, it's becoming increasingly clear to advocates and experts that awareness is only half the battle. The state's suicide rate increased about 23 percent from 1999 to 2016. Nationally, the rate increased about 25 percent over the same period. "(Suicide) is the 11th leading cause of death in Illinois last year, and actually, when you look at the numbers for young people, the number is actually greater," said Steve Moore, co-chair of the board of directors for the Illinois chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "For (the) age group of 15 to 34, it is the third leading cause of death. It's the fourth leading cause of death for those between the ages of 35 and 54. [The number of suicides in 2016] is actually higher than homicide." Moore encouraged everyone to talk to anyone they suspect is a suicide risk, in addition to getting them the professional help they need. For those concerned that bringing up the topic may drive the person to take action, Moore assures that is not the case, calling it one of the "greatest myths" surrounding suicide.
The Intersection of Homelessness and the Criminal Justice System
Homelessness in the United States has historically been a complex, lasting phenomenon posing significant policy challenges for officials at the federal, state, and local levels. Homeless individuals also are disproportionately more involved in the criminal justice system as both victims and alleged perpetrators. Housing is a burden for individuals, families, and communities, as well as an economic burden on the criminal justice system. Racial minorities were overrepresented among the homeless population in Illinois. While 13 percent of the U.S. population are Black, in Illinois they comprised 59 percent of the homeless in 2017. Persons with disabilities were four times more likely to be homeless than non-disabled persons in 2017, making up nearly 43 percent of the homeless population. Of the 5,657 Chicago homeless persons, 16 percent were veterans, 10 percent were in households with children, 6 percent were chronically homeless, and 5 percent were unaccompanied youth.
Just released: 2018 Survey Results from 6 Illinois Prisons
John Howard Association
In 2016, JHA instituted a pilot survey project in order to reach a greater number of people during our monitoring visits, thereby giving voice to hundreds more people per visit than we were able to in the past. After a successful pilot at Logan Correctional Center, JHA enhanced our survey, and now administers both surveys to staff and incarcerated people during all adult correctional center visits. These surveys are anonymous and voluntary.
Research, Reports, and Studies
A Simple Emergency Room Intervention Can Help Cut Suicide Risk
Many people who attempt suicide end up in an emergency room for immediate treatment. But few of those suicide survivors get the follow-up care they need at a time when they are especially likely to attempt suicide again. Now, a study shows that a simple intervention conducted by staff in emergency departments can reduce the risk of future attempts. The intervention involves creating a safety plan for each patient and following up with phone calls after discharge. "It reduced the odds of suicidal behavior by half," says Barbara Stanley, a psychologist at Columbia University and the lead author of the study. "That's a phenomenal difference." The study, which was published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, included 1,200 patients at five Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country. The findings offer a way for hospitals and clinics to help reduce the rising numbers of death by suicide across the country.
Factsheet: 35 States Reform Criminal Justice Policies Through Justice Reinvestment
Pew Charitable Trusts, 7/11/18
Since 2007, 35 states have reformed their sentencing and corrections policies through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Crime and Justice Institute, and other organizations. Although reforms vary from state to state, all aim to improve public safety and control taxpayer costs by prioritizing prison space for people convicted of serious offenses and investing some of the savings in alternatives to incarceration that are effective at reducing recidivism. Some states have engaged in more than one reform effort. In the years since the wave of reforms began, the total state imprisonment rate has dropped by 11 percent while crime rates have continued their long-term decline. At the same time, states that have enacted justice reinvestment laws expect to save billions of dollars because of their reforms.
Sessions' Withdrawal of Justice Department Manuals on DMC Leaves States 'Directionless'
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 7/11/18
Seven documents juvenile justice agencies used to track disproportionate arrests of minority youth and compliance with other rules were among the two dozen federal guidance documents the Justice Department recently disavowed, sparking questions and concern across the field. Those documents were part of the batch of two dozen that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pulled back last week. The documents were written to help state and local authorities comply with the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which is facing reauthorization in Congress this year. But Sessions called them "unnecessary and improper," arguing that they amounted to new regulations imposed "without any public notice or comment period."
Health & Justice in the News
is a summary of recent news stories relating to criminal justice, mental health, addiction, recovery, and related issues. It is compiled and published by TASC each Monday and Thursday.
Some headlines and text have been altered by TASC for clarity or emphasis, or to minimize discriminatory or stigmatizing language. Opinions in the articles and op-eds do not necessarily express the views of TASC or our staff or partners.