CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (KCBS)— Contra Costa County is joining a long list of Bay Area counties to sign up one of the toughest populations for health care— jail inmates.

As part of an extension of the federally mandated Affordable Care Act (ACA) and through state law, the inmates are eligible for Medi-Cal coverage.

Roxanne Foster of Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services said approximately 20,000 inmates goes through the county’s detention facilities each year and that they’re targeting 50 percent of that figure to get them signed up.

“It doesn’t mean that they have to sign up. They aren’t required to.” Once they get out, as long as they have coverage, they can continue that coverage until they make too much money to be on Medi-Cal,” she said.

Foster said through the ACA, inmates are also offered behavioral, mental health and dental-care coverage.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, prior to the ACA, few within California’s jail population were eligible for public health insurance. The population is also prone to mental health and substance abuse issues.