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Prison board approves extra payment for inmate medical care

The cost of treating county prison inmates at hospitals for acute medical issues has exceeded a $200,000 annual cap in the inmate health care provider’s contract, leading the prison board to approve an additional payment of $40,000.

Board members unanimously voted Tuesday to approve the additional payment to PrimeCare Medical, the inmate health care provider.

Warden Joe DeMore said the number of inmates needing care for acute issues often resulting from drug use before they are incarcerated is increasing, and he told the board that he believes another $40,000 over-the-cap payment will be needed before the end of the contract year in October.

Solicitor Wil White said that type of treatment is referred to as extraordinary care in the contract.

Extraordinary care includes hospital treatment and admissions, and prescriptions, DeMore said.

He said many cases involved a drug that people inject in their arms and produces wounds resembling holes on their legs.

The initial plan was to take the $40,000 payment from the inmate commissary account, which is intended for inmate welfare issues, but the board decided to make the payment from the prison’s general fund and then reimbursing the general fund from the commissary account.

Commissioner Leslie Osche said the commissary account is meant to cover those types of expenses, but wondered if the board was relying too heavily on the account.

DeMore said the cap could be increased in the next contract.

Controller Benjamin Holland suggested making the payment from the general fund and then reimbursing the amount from the commissary account so the payment can be tracked as an inmate medical expense.

Inmate voting policy

In a separate matter, the board approved an inmate voting policy.

DeMore said inmate voting is allowed through absentee ballots, but a formal policy is needed to help avoid potential lawsuits over inmates being denied the right to vote. He said "maybe five“ inmates have voted during his tenure at the prison.

White said civil rights groups have looked into inmate voting procedures in other counties.

Inmates not eligible to vote are those convicted of felony offenses and are not scheduled to be released before the next election, and those who have been convicted of violating the state election code in the last four years, according to the policy. Inmates can also register to vote by mail while incarcerated.

As of June 15, there were 443 inmates and the average daily inmate population in May was 430.

In addition, the board approved the hiring of Colin Quinn, Abigayle McCandless, Shane Endres and Abigail Southwick as correction officers and Brody Byerly as a maintenance repairman.