When we think of the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, many of us may think of our future, or current, health insurance.

However, Dr. Risdon Slate, professor of criminology, thinks about health issues, particularly mental health issues, in terms of the criminal justice system.

Slate attended a panel in October at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.  Slate said that the college offers “fellowships” to journalism students, and the panels give them a chance to look at different issues.

“Right now, one of the problems is 90 percent of people who are being booked into jail do not have any health insurance,” Slate said.

Prisoners coming into jail with Medicaid face a different challenge, namely losing their benefits.

“Now some states are saying, ‘well, maybe we should suspend benefits instead of having you lose them,’ because if you lose them it can easily take three months once you come out of custody to get your benefits back,” Slate said.

For prisoners with mental illnesses, that means three months without treatment. Slate said that Obamacare looks promising in terms of fixing several problems.

“One of the things the Affordable Health Care Act has done is it’s created a list of ten different categories in which people can receive treatment,” Slate said.

Mental health and substance abuse are two of the categories that can be observed in urgent care clinic 11375. Slate also said that this could help remove some of the “stigma” attached to mental illnesses, although those who are mentally ill often recover and are not violent.

“What this begins to do is send a message to the general public that mental health is on par with physical health, and it should not be treated differently,” Slate said. “It should be right there, side by side with physical health ailments in terms of treatment.”

In theory, this new act could help those with mental illnesses receive proper treatment.

“I think it does look good on paper,” Slate said. “But I think a lot of things look good on paper, and when you actually try to get them to work, you may run into problems.”

Obamacare certainly has faced problems since it was initially introduced. Most recently Healthcare.gov, the government website to help people sign up for health care, has launched and has crashed numerous times with the influx of all the people trying to sign up.

According to the Washington Times, the site was only equipped to handle 1,100 people a day, and is being put offline for four hours a day for maintenance.

“The concept is much better than the way it’s being rolled out,” Slate said.

However, if the glitches can be fixed, there are still ways that the Act can help those in the criminal justice system, particularly in terms of the way we think about those with mental illnesses.

“I mean, we don’t look at someone who has diabetes and blame him or her for having diabetes, right?” Slate said. “Nor should we look at a person who has a mental illness and blame him or her for being mentally ill. It’s not like people go out and choose to be diabetic or they choose to go out and be mentally ill.”

Photo courtesy of flsouthern.edu