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Jail detainees to get behavioral health medication faster with Safe Net RX

Program expected to lower rates of reoffenders in Washington, Henry counties

People released from Henry and Washington county jails who are unable to pay for their behavioral health medications will be able to receive them at no cost for 90 days with the Safe Net RX county jail program.

Southeast Iowa Link (SEIL) is partnering with Safe Net RX to eliminate the gap between when people are released from jail and when they are able to get their prescription behavioral mental health medication. SEIL serves Henry, Washington, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Van Buren and Des Moines counties.

“A lot of times what happens is somebody who has been arrested may have been self-medicating with illegal substances,” said Sarah Berndt, coordinator of disability services for SEIL. “The jail will get them stabilized, but once they get discharged it takes a big of time to get an appointment with a mental health center or doctor who will prescribe medications.”

When people go to jail, they are able to talk to mental health providers who get them the behavioral mental health medication they need. Detainees cannot take the medications they were prescribed in jail outside of the jail with them, and prescribers in the jail cannot prescribe that medication outside of the jail, which leads to a lapse in treatment.

Additionally, people in jail who have Medicaid often lose their Medicaid during their stay, which is an average of 56 days in the SEIL counties. They have to reapply for Medicaid when they get out. That can take anywhere from two to four weeks if they have had Medicaid before or six to eight weeks if they are a new Medicaid member, said Audrey Menke, transition link coordinator in Henry County.

“They go back off their medications. For a lot of people on these types of medications, being off of them is detrimental,” Menke said. “It leads to them being more symptomatic, which means more law enforcement interaction. It creates this spiral back downhill for them.”

With Safe Net RX, people will be able to see a provider within a couple days from being released from jail.

Safe Net RX is a 501(c)3 established in 2001 as the Iowa Prescription Drug Corporation to provide affordable medication to Iowans in need of assistance. The initial program focused on providing affordable medications to Medicare eligible Iowans.

Since then, Safe Net RX has expanded to serve as Iowa’s safety net for patients, providing low-cost pharmaceutical access to vulnerable populations. Safe Net RX’s county jail program gives people access to behavioral health medication, reducing amount of people who reoffend.

When someone is about to be released from jail, jail diversion staff will complete paperwork for them for the Safe Net RX program. After the detainee meets with a mental health professional, their medication will be mailed directly to them after they get out of jail, Berndt said.

SEIL works with providers from Hillcrest Family Services in Washington and Henry counties. They already pay for an hour a week of prescriber time in case of emergency. Now they are in renegotiation for an extra hour to two hours a week to provide the additional Safe Net RX services.

Alan Brady, jail alternatives coordinator in Washington County, said that Safe Net RX is a step in the right direction.

“With mental illness, medication is very important,” Brady said. Having that link where there’s no lapse in managed medication is so important. That’s where Safe Net comes in in allowing us to do that.”

Henry and Washington counties have an average of one person a week released from jail who would be eligible for this program, Menke said.

Safe Net RX gives detainees a 90-day window for their Medicaid to be reactivated, Menke said. In Henry County, Menke said that about 60 to 70 percent of the jail population is eligible for behavioral health medications.

“I’m really excited our region is going to take this opportunity the state has implemented and try to effectively use this resource, so we can lower our recidivism rates and keep people stabilized and have less contact with hospitals and law enforcement,” Menke said. “I’m very excited we got the go ahead.”

Menke said the program will begin for SEIL counties after February 2019.