Persons in jail are more likely to be homeless and not to have health insurance coverage upon jail admission and various studies document high prevalence of comorbid medical conditions. Yet upon release few have Medicaid coverage and/or ability to access timely behavioral health and health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to dramatically shift the institutionalized segmentation of jail based health and behavioral health services from community health care to a system of care that is integrated and seamless.

Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) is a California based non-profit organization which promotes improvement in health care for jails and development of jail community health care partnerships. COCHS was quick to appreciate the possible opportunities presented by the ACA to improve health care for the over 3,000 county jails nationwide. Since 2009, COCHS has been an early leader in advancing the discussion about the potential impact of ACA on criminal justice populations.

The COCHS website lists their objectives as:

  • Support changes in public policy and practice that promote access to health preventive and treatment services both in jail and in partner community institutions
  • Ensure that local health care systems are in place to treat jail-involved populations
  • Improve the ability of jails to connect offenders with health care
  • Develop health care delivery systems that are financially viable and sustainable

Published papers commissioned by COCHS include:

“Working Group on Health Reform and Criminal Justice: Retooling the Relationship”

“Medicaid Expansion and the Local Criminal Justice System”

“Health Reform and Criminal Justice: Integrating Jails into Health Information Exchanges”

The time for ACTION is now. Get informed, get in action and don’t get left behind. Health care reform and the ACA present real opportunities to integrate health and behavioral health services for justice involved persons. For a full list of publications, webinars and documentary films, visit the COCHS website at