By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
The Jefferson County Board on Monday voted to accept the bid of Advanced Correctional Healthcare for medical services at the Jefferson County Justice Center.
The board voted 12-to-one to move forward with the $522,000 contract, with board member Jim Laird voting no.
The proposal provides for a physician, 24-hour healthcare at the Justice Center, a registered nurse administrator, a healthcare administrator, pharmaceuticals for inmates as well as over-the-counter drugs, said Dennis Dougherty, Advanced Correctional Healthcare program consultant.
The motion came with the recommendation of Jefferson County Sheriff Roger Mulch and the Justice Center command staff.
He said the staff the company will be seeking immediately are one full-time registered nurse, one part-time RN, four full-time licensed practical nurses and an undetermined number of part-time LPNs.
Dougherty said the proposal cost is based on the jail being fully staffed and having all the inmates there, and if it takes longer for the inmate level to be reestablished, the services provided by Advanced Correctional Healthcare will be scaled back and the costs reconciled quarterly.
He said the company provides a number of services to the jails it works with, including reviewing off-site medical bills and working to negotiate a lower rate with local hospitals, as well as providing an in-house attorney.
Board member Bob Watt asked if the first down payment of about $43,500 to Advanced Correctional Healthcare would cause a strain on the county’s finances. Jefferson County Treasurer Dan Knox said depending on the timing, it could cause difficulties.
Dougherty said the company will work with the county and adjust the payment based on staffing levels.
Laird asked how it is possible for the about $200,000 in extra funding for medical services will be taken from the Sheriff’s Office budget.
Jefferson County Sheriff Roger Mulch said due to the cuts to sheriff’s deputies, the office is currently expending about $250,000 less per month, and that will be used to go toward the difference until the sheriff’s office staff can be brought back.
“We’re not going to bring back any personnel until we can afford it,” Mulch said.
Board Chairman Robert White said the JCJC typically housed about 110 ICE detainees per day before they were moved to other facilities. He said it is not cost-effective for the county to house 50 or fewer per day.
“We have to be cognizant of where we’re at,” White said concerning the reduced county budget. “I think it’s not going to be an easy, smooth process. In my opinion, we’re looking at six months of guiding back into this thing.”
Approving the medical services is the first step in returning the Justice Center to a state acceptable by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for housing its detainees.
If the ICE detainees are not returned to the county jail, there will be no more cuts to the county’s budget. Knox said the county will be able to get through this fiscal year, but may have to make more cuts next year.
The board also voted 12-to-one voicing its approval of moving forward with what JCJC command staff are calling the ICE Project, with Laird again voting no.
“It’s a step forward to get prepared for ICE,” Laird said. “I don’t trust ICE. I think they should have come to the sheriff when there were problems instead of just pulling (the detainees) out.”
In other business, the board: