New jail medical contract already paying dividends
Carter County Jailer RW Boggs has worked tirelessly to not only save money for the county, but to make the Carter County Detention Center profitable since taking office. He’s renegotiated phone contracts, taken on prisoner transports and inmate housing contracts for I.C.E. and other federal inmates, and worked to use commissary funds to provide services that benefit inmates.
His latest move, a new medical contract with Quality Correctional Health Care (QCHC), is improving on-site health care for inmates while also saving the jail funds spent on overtime, transport, and other off-site hospital visit costs, Boggs explained.
Under the jail’s previous health care contract they had on-site medical personnel for eight hours a day. The jail does two medical passes in that eight hour period, which includes checking on inmates’ vitals and handing out medication. Because of end-of-shift work that nurses must do, other jail staff usually ended up doing the second pass. The staff, Boggs said, have had the training required to hand out medication, but it’s better for the inmates if nurses hand it out because they can address other issues that inmates might have at that time too.
With the new QCHC contract, the jail has medical staff for 12 hours a day, soon to be 16 hours a day. Therefore, nurses can handle both medical passes and provide better care for the inmates. Under the old system, if an inmate had other medical complaints they would often end up having to take them off-site to visit a doctor or nurse practitioner because the other jail staff weren’t trained medical professionals despite being certified to hand out medication. With this new system, Boggs explained, off-site visits are already down by 80 percent. Previously, he said, they would have “from four to five (off-site visits) per week.” With the new system, they’ve dropped that number to two off-site visits since May 1.
“It’s safer for everyone – staff, inmates, and the community,” Boggs said. It’s safer for the community, he explained, because there is less chance of an inmate escaping since they aren’t outside the facility. It’s safer for staff because they aren’t at risk when transporting. And it’s safer for inmates, he said, because there is more staff present in the facility to help keep order.
It’s also better for the inmates because they now have more on-site equipment to serve them, such as EKG monitors to check heart rates. That one piece of machinery, Boggs noted, has already helped them rule out whether some issues are actual heart attacks, panic attacks, or an exaggeration of symptoms by inmates that want a short trip outside the facility just to break the boredom of incarceration.
While QCHC will also provide refund checks to the jail once the initial costs of equipment and start-up are covered, Boggs said the major costs savings come from cuts in deputy overtime and in fuel and time costs for transports.
One of the other improvements offered with QCHC is access to electronic medical records (EMR), which Boggs said is a “safer” and “more seamless” way of getting records to providers when they do have to transport inmates off-site for medical services.
The start-up didn’t cost the county anything either, he explained, as the initial funding came from commissary funds. By state statute, commissary funds can only be used for programs that benefit inmates. But, he said, “nothing in my mind is better for them than more health care.”
“We wanted to provide the best services we can at no cost to the county,” Boggs continued, explaining that he feels the QCHC contract helps the jail do just that.
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