Mt. Vernon Register-News

April 4, 2013

Inmate medical costs escalating

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — One of the "atypical" expenses Jefferson County officials have been forced to deal with recently are medical costs associated with the incarceration of an inmate who is awaiting trial.

County Chairman Robert White, during an officeholders meeting on Monday, described the expense as a "shock expense. It's something you can't budget."

Treasurer Dan Knox first brought the expenditure to the attention of the Fiscal Committee during a meeting last week. It was discussed again on Monday, when Knox noted the county has expended $128,385 for medical expenses this fiscal year. The county spent $38,798 for medical needs in Fiscal Year 2012.

Of the amount spent this year for medical needs, Sheriff Roger Mulch estimated that approximately $80,000 was due to the incarceration of one prisoner, who is expected to go to trial next month.

According to Capt. Randy Pollard of the sheriff's department, the inmate is "seriously ill," and has multiple ailments. The name of the inmate was not released due to federal privacy laws.

"It's a firm date," State's Attorney Doug Hoffman said of the man's trial. "In most cases, we can release low level prisoners until their trial date. In this case, since the inmate in question is a sex offender and looking at a life sentence, we would not release him."

Knox outlined remaining atypical expenses the county has been hit with in recent months, including nearly $64,000 to Aramark Correctional Services, which provide meals at the Justice Center; some $43,537 to Advance Healthcare Corrections, the company hired by the county to provide medical services at the Justice Center; and nearly $30,000 for three employee payouts — a severance package and vacation for one employee and vacation time for an employee who was terminated. Pollard said the reason the cost to Aramark has increased is because of the decrease in the number of detainees at the Justice Center; Knox also reported the $43,537 payment to AHC will be prorated next month.

Local officials are hoping that number will be reduced when Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees are returned to the jail, although it appears that won't happen for at least 30 days.

"The good thing about ICE is they pay like clockwork," said White. "We're already in the hole for $238,000 … and still no potential ending in sight before we can get ICE back."

The county is looking at a monthly shortfall of more than $42,000 based on averages of expenses and revenue over the past four months.

The County Board will meet in special session at 6 p.m. today to discuss the budget crises.