HEALTH & JUSTICE IN THE NEWS
Date: August 10, 2017
TASC in the News
Coverage For Mental Health Via Telemedicine Soars At U.S. Employers
Insurance coverage of mental health services via telehealth technology is surging to unprecedented levels amid an opioid abuse epidemic and increased access to behavioral healthcare generally, a new report and telemedicine companies say. The National Business Group on Health said 56% of employers in 2018 plan to offer telehealth for behavioral health services as a covered benefit . That's more than double the percentage of employers offering telehealth mental health services this year, NBGH says in its new annual health benefits survey.
Struggling with addiction in an opioid 'treatment desert'
Experts recommend medication-assisted treatment for drug users like [Heather] Menzel, one of nearly 2 million Americans struggling with opioid addiction, whether to prescription pills or heroin. MAT, as the therapy is known, has been proven far more effective - and less dangerous and miserable - than cold-turkey quitting. Drugs like methadone and buprenorphine can help suppress opioid cravings and stave off the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. When carefully managed, MAT can cut the risk of overdose death by half, research shows. But not all medical providers are properly trained and approved to provide the treatments, which themselves are opioids (albeit less likely to be abused). Only state-licensed and federally approved clinics can provide methadone, and doctors need to apply for a federal Drug Enforcement Administration waiver to prescribe buprenorphine...In rural areas, historically, there has been a lot of stigma around addiction treatment," said Kelly Pfeifer, a primary care doctor and opioid project director at the California Health Care Foundation. "Although the state is trying to remedy this, there are still wide treatment deserts across California."
Trump emphasizes law enforcement, declines to declare emergency on opioid epidemic
Chicago Tribune, 8/8/17
President Trump emphasized the need for stepped-up law enforcement to combat the nation's opioid problem Tuesday, an approach that is at odds with a report released last week by the special commission he appointed to address abuse.
Do Occupational Licenses Exacerbate the Prison-to-Poverty Pipeline?
The Regulatory Review | University of Pennsylvania Law School, 8/10/17
Specific regulations vary from state to state, but more than a quarter of workers in the United States-in occupations ranging from florist to entrepreneurs-must obtain occupational licenses to do their jobs. But many of the estimated 650,000 ex-offenders released from prisons in the United States each year do not have the opportunity to become licensed at all. In a recent report, Emily Fetsch, a research assistant at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, explores how occupational licensing requirements diminish the economic potential of the formerly incarcerated. Removing barriers in licensing would reduce unemployment by former inmates, curb recidivism, and boost the economy, Fetsch argues. After summarizing research on the correlation between employment and recidivism, she recommends policy reforms for state regulators to improve the disproportionate effects of occupational licensing on the formerly incarcerated.
Video: Prison Dog Training Programs Rehabilitate Canines and Inmates
Across the country, prisons and animal shelters are forming partnerships that put inmates in charge of training unruly dogs, giving both parties a chance at a fresh start...Prison animal programs have been gaining traction in recent years, though the first documented account of a dog used for inmate rehabilitation can be traced back to 1925...The details of each program differ but most follow the same basic guidelines. Dogs with behavioral issues who are not yet ready to be adopted are sent to live in a cell with their caretakers. For up to 16 weeks, the inmates are responsible for walking, feeding and playing with their dogs. Inmates also take part in formal obedience classes, teaching their animals the basic commands like sit and heel. In order to take part in the program, inmates have to exhibit good behavior for at least one year prior...Kimberly Collica-Cox, associate professor of criminal justice at Pace University in New York, has studied how the symbiotic relationship between humans and dogs can be useful in prisons..."What we find is that dogs can trigger feelings of safety in humans, which will allow them to sort of open up and communicate more, which can be very helpful in a correctional setting," she said, adding that there's a great deal of research to support these findings.
Since they started bringing dogs from the Monterey County ASPCA into Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, California, Lt. David Lopez said he's seen a significant decrease in conflicts. "There's a lot less incidences, a lot less crime and a lot of inmates are trying to stay out of trouble so they can meet the prerequisites to become an inmate dog handler," he said.
In Chicago, Another Public Housing Experiment: Prisoner Reentry
Since HUD adopted the "One Strike and You're Out" Rule in 1996, people with criminal records have been effectively-if not always explicitly-banned from public housing. Since that time, incarceration rates have risen steadily as a result of the War on Drugs, mandatory minimum sentencing, and other tough-on-crime policies. Upon release, inmates typically move back to the same urban neighborhoods they came from but are barred from most forms of public assistance as well as employment and educational opportunities because of their record. In 2011, things began to change when then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan sent a letter to all public housing authorities in the U.S., asking them to rethink their admissions criteria and to join HUD in "welcoming these deserving citizens back into our communities."...Nationally, public housing authorities have responded to Donovan's call with a mix of strategies. In some cities, like New Orleans, the housing authority simply streamlined their admissions process, adjusting rules to allow ex-offenders to apply and then interviewing them for admission on a case-by-case basis. In a more cautious move, other cities, including Chicago, have created pilot programs-official policy experiments to, as the CHA puts it, "test the provision of stable housing against recidivism."...In Chicago, as elsewhere, the need for ex-offender housing is significant. In 2016, an estimated 21,000 people returned to Chicago from prison. Parolees return to primarily four zip codes in the city, creating a distinct geography of reentry. According to Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, 1,200 individuals are released directly from prison to homeless shelters in Chicago annually, while as many as 48 percent of individuals in Chicago emergency shelters report having a felony conviction. And yet, scholarly studies reinforce the notion that access to safe and affordable housing helps prevent people with criminal records-people who have already been tried, convicted, and completed their sentence and parole-from reoffending.
Jail Play Area Opens For Kids Waiting For Parents To Bond Out
DNAinfo | Chicago, 8/8/17
COOK COUNTY JAIL - Kids waiting for loved ones to bond out of Cook County Jail now have access to books, toys and iPads inside their own colorful waiting area. The "Bright Space," as its called, opened quietly last week inside Division 5, the jail's administrative hub at 2700 S. California Ave. That's where bond is collected - and relatives or friends sometimes wait hours for loved ones to be released. "There's nothing for kids to do" while they wait, Kendra Kett said at a news conference Tuesday. The new waiting area "allows them to be socialized with other kids and minimize the stress of that wait time."
New Law Allows Illinois Prisoners To Get Free Copies Of Birth Certificates
Northern IL Public Radio, 8/10/17
A new law will allow people leaving Illinois prisons to get a copy of their birth certificate for free. The measure is meant to make it easier for former prisoners to get a state ID, which is necessary to apply for jobs and housing.
Research, Reports, and Studies
Instagram Posts May Reveal Signs of Depression: Study
NBC | Chicago, 8/7/17
Scientists have created an algorithm that can determine whether an Instagram user is showing signs of depression based on their posts to the app, according to a study published Monday by EPJ Data Science. Researchers used almost 44,000 pictures from 166 people. Of the sample, 71 participants had a history of depression. The computer algorithm successfully identified markers of depression 70 percent of the time, according to the study. It was able to spot markers of depression based on Instagram posts even before participants were clinically diagnosed.
STUDY: How 'Status Offenses' Push Students of Color, Queer Kids Into Criminal Justice System
Colorlines Magazine, 8/9/17
A new report from nonprofit advocacy group Vera Institute of Justice breaks down how many teenagers of color are shuttled into the criminal justice system. Penned by Mahsa Jafarian and Vidhya Ananthakrishnan, "Just Kids: When Misbehaving is a Crime" delves into the world of "status offenses"-behaviors like skipping school or running away that are deemed illegal only because of the age of the participant and that are overwhelming responsible for landing children of color in the justice system at disproportionate rates. The authors highlight how actions that are typically understood to be normal adolescent behaviors are frequently interpreted as illegal for kids who are already on the margins of society, with authorities overlooking important underlying issues that could be addressed with interventions.
Energy drinks associated with increased alcohol and drug abuse, study finds
The Washington Times, 8/8/17
College students who consume highly caffeinated energy drinks are at an increased risk for abusing alcohol and cocaine, according to a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. Researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, followed 1,060 21-year-old undergraduates for up to five years and had them self-report their use of energy drinks, other caffeinated drinks, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs including cocaine and heroine. They found that compared to nonusers of energy drinks, those participants who routinely consumed the caffeinated beverages or increased their intake, had higher rates of use of cocaine and "prescription stimulant misuse" and alcohol disorder. The researchers also found their results held true regardless of how many energy drinks a participant consumed - whether infrequently, occasionally or frequently.
Opinions, Editorials, and Commentary
Vincent M. Southerland and Jody Kent Lavy: Why Are We Sentencing Children to Life in Prison Without Parole?
The barbaric practice of sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of parole remains one of the most radically inhumane aspects of our criminal justice system...Young people are more susceptible to peer pressure than adults, and less capable of thinking through the consequences of their actions and assessing risks. They are also uniquely capable of positive growth and change. That is why the Supreme Court has stepped in four times since 2005 to declare children "constitutionally different" than adults, and less deserving of our country's harshest punishments. Many states have taken that common sense lesson to heart...The bad news is that despite these decisions and a national trend moving away from this practice, several outlier states and counties refuse to comply with the Supreme Court's most recent mandate, which effectively banned life without parole for all children capable of rehabilitation.
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.