Recouped Medicaid funds to be allocated to ADOC?

Last week, the state of Alabama won another victory in cases it has filed to recoup an alleged $1 billion from pharmaceutical companies that overcharged the Alabama Medicaid Agency.  To date, Alabama has regained $123.75 million in settlements from the drug companies, not including more than $3 million regained by verdict.  

In an article published by Birmingham News yesterday, Attorney General King went on to say that the money from the settlements will be returned to the state’s General Fund and that it is his hope that the money will be used to ‘offset some of the massive budget shortfalls within the Alabama Department of Corrections [ADOC], and, perhaps, even be used to provide relief to those Alabama families who acted in good faith, saving and investing in the Alabama Prepaid College Tuition program.’

It is a cause for pause that in spite of the state’s victories in recouping inflated drug costs, the Alabama Medicaid Agency may not receive all of the funds recovered to support its own services due to the ADOC’s ongoing budget crisis. As of the end of Alabama’s legislative session last month, ADOC’s budget was $14 million short of funds it needs to maintain the status quo of its operations—operations that continue to have problems due to prison overcrowding.

With the latest ADOC report showing ADOC’s occupancy rate at 189.1% (Tutwiler Prison Annex alone having an occupancy rate of 200%), meeting the status quo is missing the long-term mark.  If recouped funds are allocated to ADOC, they should be used to reduce the number of Alabamians in prison by investing in community alternatives to prison and improve programming for prisoners that have been proven to decrease recidivism and improve their health and livelihoods after release.  Funding shortfalls must be seen as an opportunity for increased coordination and mobilization toward reducing the number of Alabama’s prisoners and many state agency leaders have been spearheading reforms that will do just that. 

Examples of such targeted spending are drug courts. Retired Jefferson County District Court Judge Pete Johnson has been quoted as stating that Jefferson County’s drug court took $650,000 in grant funding to launch, and in the last 13 years of its operation, has saved Alabama taxpayers $36 million and has kept almost 5,000 Alabamaians out of prison.  Earlier this spring, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb announced four locations that will pilot the Cooperative Community Alternative Sentencing Project (CCASP), which will establish new community-based supervision systems. 

Without allocating funds targeted at sustainably reducing the number of Alabama’s prisoners, such as increased funding for programs like Justice Cobb’s CCASP, ADOC’s budget crisis will most likely continue for years to come.


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