Governor’s Crime Commission connects Medicaid expansion to criminal justice

By: - September 7, 2023 4:47 pm
an image of a stethoscope, an outline of North Carolina and the words "Medicaid Expansion"

Image: Adobe Stock

As the rollout of Medicaid expansion remains delayed as lawmakers continue to negotiate the budget, the Governor’s Crime Commission passed a resolution Thursday acknowledging that extending healthcare to about 600,000 North Carolinians is a criminal justice issue.

“In rural communities, the biggest treatment facility often is the jail,” Pamela Thompson, a member of the Governor’s Crime Commission and an Alamance County commissioner, said in a statement. “The jail has become the new hospital. Expansion of Medicaid will help shore up healthcare resources across the state, ensuring North Carolinians have access to critical services.”

Across the state and nation, police and first responders are on the frontlines of responding to the country’s mental health care and substance abuse treatment crisis. “Our police departments and our jails too often are tasked with filling the health service gap that exists in our state,” Chairman Robert Evans said in a statement.

“This is a criminal justice issue impacting the safety of our communities,” said N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie M. Buffaloe, Jr., who is also on the Governor’s Crime Commission. “North Carolinians need access to critical care, outside of our law enforcement agencies and jails.”

Research in the National Library of Medicine suggests that Medicaid expansion leads to significantly reduced arrests, especially arrests for drug selling and possession.

North Carolina is one of 11 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. State legislators approved expansion earlier this year but the state can’t implement it until lawmakers approve a budget.

Click here to read a story from NC Newsline about how Medicaid expansion could help people cycling in and out of jails and prisons — those stuck in the “black hole” of the mental health system.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Kelan Lyons
Kelan Lyons

Investigative Reporter Kelan Lyons writes about criminal and civil justice, including high-profile litigation, prison and jail conditions, housing, and the challenges people face when they leave prison.