Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jail paying more for inmates' medical expenses

Associated Press
Monday May 21, 2007

The Vanderburgh County Jail has spent so much money on medical care for inmates this year that the sheriff is asking the county for more money to cover expenses, and some say bigger medical bills for inmates are becoming more common statewide.

Vanderburgh County is on pace to spend more than $800,000 this year for inmates' medical expenses - more than four times the amount spent six years ago.

Some Indiana sheriffs say the cost increases are caused by several reasons, including price hikes in the cost of medicine, jails providing more expensive services, drugs for HIV-positive inmates and treatment for methamphetamine addicts in poor health.

"It's one of those expenses that nobody enjoys," Vanderburgh County Sheriff Eric Williams said. "But it is an expense that is a burden to us."

Vanderburgh County spent $152,153 on medical and dental expenses for inmates in 2002. So far this year, the county has spent more than $300,000. Williams has asked the County Council for an additional $500,000 to cover expenses the rest of the year.

Howard Williams, an attorney for the Indiana Sheriff's Association, said increasing medical expenses are a statewide problem.

"The jails have become a poor man's HMO," he said. "What happens essentially is that when an individual gets arrested, he may not have seen a doctor in years, but as soon as he's booked into the jail, he wants his teeth checked. He's got bad headaches, so he wants his eyes checked. Or he claims to have some other issue. We've got people in jail who have kidney dialysis that costs us $6,000 a month to take care of that. And they are there on some petty crime."

Dr. Ruston Stoltz visits the Vanderburgh County Jail at least once a week and sees up to 80 patients a day.

"We've moved toward more of continuing the care that the patient had when they came in rather than doing it as a temporary depot," Stoltz said. "I don't think we used to be as aggressive with psychiatric medicine as we are now. It's really expensive."

Chief Deputy Sheriff Dave Wedding said the problem is widespread.

"That's kind of a nationwide epidemic - mental health care being cut so drastically," Wedding said. "It's happening in prisons, jails. We get them straightened out; they get released; they can't afford it or don't follow up to stay on it and come back."
source : www.reporter-times.com

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