OLYMPIA Today the Senate passed legislation that would improve public safety by ensuring access to services for formerly incarcerated or confined individuals reentering the community.

SB 5304, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson, would provide a “warm handoff” when someone leaves custody and rejoins their community by allowing them to be covered by Medicaid upon their release from incarceration or confinement. It would also ensure that their managed care provider is notified of their release and provided 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.

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.

The bill will now be considered by the House of Representatives.