Dr. Warren Ferguson to discuss collaboration of criminal justice, health care systems to address mental health at AcademyHealth conference

January 21, 2016

Warren J. Ferguson, MD, a UMass Medical School correctional health expert, will discuss the integration of the criminal justice and health care systems to provide quality, cost-effective mental health care to justice-involved populations at AcademyHealth’s National Health Policy Conference Feb. 1 and 2 in Washington, D.C.

The Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid has enabled individuals who have been involved with the criminal justice system to become eligible for health care coverage, which includes services for mental health and substance abuse. Dr. Ferguson and his fellow panelists will consider the opportunities and challenges of integrating the criminal justice and health care systems to provide those services.

Ferguson is professor and vice chair of Family Medicine and Community Health at UMass Medical School and director of academic programs for its Health and Criminal Justice Program. He is a national leader in correctional health, presenting at conferences and speaking to the news media about a nationwide effort to enroll prisoners in Medicaid to reduce costs and improve health care access.

Massachusetts began enrolling inmates in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, in 2007 when the state reformed its health care system. A study co-authored by Ferguson revealed that when former inmates were enrolled in MassHealth they used medical and behavioral health services more than other MassHealth members. The Massachusetts program calls for prisoners to be signed up for MassHealth before release and helps them find health care providers and clinics.

The AcademyHealth discussion by Ferguson, Robynn Cox of the University of Southern California and Homer Venters of New York City Health & Hospitals will be from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m. Feb. 1. Gabrielle de la Gueronniere of the Legal Action Center will be the moderator.

The Health and Criminal Justice Program, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, focuses on research and scholarship; education; and service and consulting. It also runs the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health, which hosts an international, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed conference annually on criminal justice health and health policy.

The program manages contracts to provide health services for the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Medical Centers in Devens, Massachusetts, and Butner, North Carolina, as well as its Federal Correctional Institutions in Ray Brook, New York, and Berlin, New Hampshire.

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