April 22, 2013

Another View: Federal Medicaid grants could help keep people out of jail

People with mental or substance abuse issues need help before they get in trouble.

By EDWARD GOOGINS

Much has been written about whether or not Maine should use federal funds to increase the health coverage for more of Maine's low-income, uninsured citizens through Medicaid.  

As South Portland's police chief, I would like to add the perspective of many of us in law enforcement who support providing this health care coverage.

Police all across our state have seen a dramatic increase in calls that involve individuals in need of mental health services or substance abuse services or both.  

Officers are called upon to intervene because people haven't received the medical care they need.

We train our law enforcement officers to handle the initial response to a broad range of incidents, including Crisis Intervention Training.  

Nevertheless, without proper care, some of these citizens with mental, emotional or addiction problems become a danger to themselves and others.  

Sadly, many end up in our jails.  

Despite our best efforts to deal with these problems, we know that the best treatment occurs long before someone dials 9-1-1.

Extending access to health care coverage by accepting the federal health care dollars would help up to 69,500 Mainers have access to regular health care, including mental health and addiction services.

Such care can help people avoid crisis and build more stable lives.

Maine has an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people.  

The ripple effect of doing so will make our communities stronger and safer, save state and local government and law enforcement resources, and ensure that more people have access to the care they need.  

That's good for all of us.

Edward Googins is chief of police for the city of South Portland.

 

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