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The KUNM news team's coverage of the 2020 legislative session and its impacts

Public Safety Bill Includes Jail Behavioral Health Services

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New Mexico has the second-highest recidivism rate in the country, with half of its former inmates landing back behind prison bars within three years. To shrink those numbers, the state House passed a measure that would require jails and prisons to make sure inmates have access to behavioral health services.

House Republican leader Nate Gentry is one of the measure’s sponsors. He says helping people sign up for Medicaid and get services when they are leaving jail has delivered good results before.

"Other states who have done this like North Carolina, and Ohio and Virginia, have seen a pretty significant reduction in incarceration costs and recidivism," Gentry said.

New Mexico prisons would have to refer people to the appropriate services and help them get enrolled in Medicaid if they are eligible. Jails could request assistance from the state Human Services Department to test inmates for mental health and substance use issues, then pair them with the help they need.

This measure was part of a package aimed at reducing crime. The most recent FBI data shows New Mexico had the country’s second-highest violent crime rate in 2016, and the nation’s top spot for property crime.

The measure now heads to the Senate.


May joined KUNM's Public Health New Mexico team in early 2018. That same year, she established the New Mexico chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and received a fellowship from the Association of Health Care Journalists. She join Colorado Public Radio in late 2019.
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