November 18, 2009
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
The Florida Department of Corrections (DC) has entered into a three-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify military veterans being released from prison and those on community supervision so that the VA may assist those who are eligible with their mental health, medical, substance abuse, and housing needs.
Approximately 7,000 of the 101,000 inmates currently serving time in Florida prisons have identified themselves as military veterans. This agreement will not only result in improved continuity of care for the released inmates and offenders who are veterans, but will result in savings to Florida taxpayers who fund state and community programs that would otherwise be accessed by these inmates and offenders upon release.
“It’s fitting that during the same month that we celebrated Veteran’s Day, we’ve been able to join forces with the VA to assist veterans who took a wrong turn after their military service to get back on the right path,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil. “We have comprehensive medical records on what types of mental health, medical or substance abuse treatment the inmates in our care require, and sharing that information with our VA partners will smooth their transition to society, and open up more doors for them to receive necessary services.”
As is outlined in the agreement, all confidentiality laws regarding the sharing of medical information will be strictly followed by both the Department and the VA. Participation in this agreement is completely voluntary on the part of the inmate and offenders on supervision.
Using data provided by the Department, the VA will identify incarcerated veterans who are eligible for VA benefits upon release from prison. The VA will provide the identified inmate veterans with information about what benefits and services are available to them, and will also assist them prior to release in completing the applications and forms required to access their veteran’s benefits.
The VA is also working with the Department to develop an automated electronic referral system that will identify needed services and enhance the continuity of care for the incarcerated veteran as they transition back into the community.
Currently, one of every three inmates returns to prison within three years, costing taxpayers about $20,000 a year to incarcerate him or her. This latest partnership is part of the Department’s re-entry initiative, which seeks to work cooperatively with community and service providers to make the transition from prisoner or probationer to law-abiding citizen a successful one. By taking care of immediate needs like medication, treatment and housing, recently released inmates and offenders will be better prepared for the adjustments to come, and less likely to succumb to frustration, produce more victims, and return to prison.