Cost of health services at Moffat County Jail decreases; quality of care increases
March 11, 2018
CRAIG — An innovative partnership between the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and Memorial Regional Health has improved health care for jail inmates at substantial savings to taxpayers.
"We are receiving an improved level of service for less taxpayer dollars," said Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume.
In 2016, 1,296 individuals were booked into the Moffat County Jail. An equal or slightly higher number were booked into jail in 2017.
In 2017, about $105,000 was spent on inmate health care. The jail’s contract with MRH costs a little more than $83,000 per year, plus the pass-through cost of prescription medications, which are not marked-up.
"This is a break-even service for MRH," said MRH Vice President of Operations Jennifer Riley. "Sheriffs are statutorily and constitutionally obligated to provide care for inmates, and it can be expensive. We have found a way to work with the sheriff's 0ffice to save them money and provide a necessary service."
The sheriff’s legal obligation is to provide adequate and emergent care, which means inmates are not treated for pre-existing medical conditions.
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As an example, the sheriff said if someone were booked into the jail with bad teeth, Moffat County would not pay for the dental work.
"Moffat County isn't subsidizing the cost of treatment of pre-existing medical conditions," Hume said.
The process of providing required care begins during the intake procedure, with an initial health screening of inmates performed at the jail by MRH emergence medical services.
"Prior to Jan. 1, that had been done by deputies in the jail using a tool to manage medical intake. Now, we have a medical professional managing the initial intake," Hume said.
EMS is notified they are needed for inmate processing through the existing communication system.
"If there are no significant health concerns, the person is processed into the jail. If there are concerns, that person is transported to the hospital emergency department to be cleared by a physician and then processed into the jail," Riley said.
The partnership also provides additional medical services. A team of three physician assistants rotates through the jail, visiting for eight hours about twice a week.
Prior to the partnership, a national company — Correct Care Solutions — sent a nurse to visit the jail twice per week.
Now, a PA examines everyone processed into the jail within 72 hours to conduct a more thorough assessment of inmates. As part of the process, the PA completes a reconciliation of any medications needed by a that inmate and sees inmates who are sick or who request medical attention.
"We see the same variety of medical issues with patients at the jail as we do with our patients in our other clinics," Riley said.
The partnership took the team at the sheriff’s office almost a year to plan.
"We realized that, with declining revenue streams across Moffat County … it was incumbent on me to see if we could provide statutorily and constitutionally required health care at a lower price point and saving money for the citizens of Moffat County," Hume said.
The contract became effective Jan. 1 for one year, with the option to renew. MRH and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office have the right to terminate the contract should either entity deem it necessary.
Hume said he is impressed with how well the program is working, as well as the swift adjustment MRH staff have made in working with the inmate population.
"I believe that it is innovative," Hume said. "We are utilizing resources through MRH that we didn't have access to prior."
He explained that some facilities have the resources to hire medical staff.
"We are held to the same standard, but don't have the financial means or resources to do that," Hume said. "By using local providers, we are able to provide continuity of care for the inmates after they are released … and quality health care may result in the reduction of recidivism."
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com