OLYMPIA Today Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that will improve public safety by ensuring access to services for formerly incarcerated or confined individuals reentering the community.

Senate Bill 5304, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), will provide a “warm handoff” when someone leaves custody and rejoins the community by allowing them to be covered by Medicaid upon their release from incarceration or confinement. It will also ensure that their managed care provider is notified of their release and given the necessary information to initiate their benefits.

“Healthcare coverage during this transition will give people access to services they need to succeed in their communities, which could include anything from acute medical needs and regular checkups to behavioral health supports,” said Wilson. “The best way to keep communities safe is by ensuring that those who exit institutions have the support and services they need to be successful in the community.”

“Access to healthcare is vital, particularly in the immediate days and weeks following release from incarceration. This new law will allow eligible people to get signed up for Medicaid prior to their release,” said Christopher Poulos, executive director of the Washington Statewide Reentry Council. “This promotes successful reentry and societal reintegration, and helps avoid preventable medical related tragedies. We applaud Sen. Wilson for her leadership on this bill and thank everyone involved in facilitating its passage.”

The bill also renames the existing Offender Reentry Community Safety Program as the Reentry Community Services Program, makes improvements to the program, and creates a work group to explore ways to further improve it. This program protects public safety and aids successful reentry by providing intensive support services to those who need them most. The highly effective program has delivered a benefit-to-cost ratio of $1.90 for each dollar spent.

Section 11 of SB 5304, which defines “county of origin” for reentry purposes, was vetoed because it was duplicative of a section of another bill, HB 1044.

The new law will go into effect on July 25.