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High med costs for inmates send jail looking for cuts

Soaring medical expenses in recent years for Harrison County jail inmates has the commissioners considering hiring a consultant to find ways to cut costs.
William H. Lafayette Jr. of Lafayette Counseling and Consulting Services of Lanesville told the commissioners at their meeting Monday night that the annual costs for medical care for inmates is now more than $350,000 a year.
‘If it’s exactly like he’s told me, we are definitely going to get on it; we’re going to save lots and lots of money,’ Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick said yesterday.
In 2003, medical and dental expenses for jail inmates totaled more than $298,850, up about 47 percent from the 2002 budget of $203,569. Last year, $265,000 was paid for medical and dental care, plus $55,000 in leftover bills from 2003.
This year, the jail has $265,000 budgeted for medical and dental expenses.
Lafayette’s preliminary review has shown some areas where costs could be cut. For instance, he said name brand supplies have been purchased individually, when generic, bulk purchases would be more cost effective.
He said prescription eyeglasses are provided to inmates at a cost of about $200 each when over-the-counter eyeglasses may be more practical and cost effective.
Also, Lafayette said inmates are sometimes taken from the jail to medical appointments ‘only to find the appointments were canceled.’ That takes up a corrections officer’s time, use of a vehicle, decreased productivity of the officer and increased risk to the public should the inmate escape.
Lafayette said if he is hired to develop and implement a plan, at an initial cost of $14,400, he will work with the sheriff and jail commander Bruce LaHue to review all medical costs, including prescription medications, mental health and chemical dependency costs, to come up with a standard operating procedure to follow when inmates need medical attention.
In other matters Monday night, the commissioners:
‘ Opened four bids to construct a 6,100-square-foot fire station at Frenchtown, in Spencer Township. E.H. Construction Co. of Brooks, Ky., submitted the high bid at $787,830; AML of Floyds Knobs, $665,900; and James L. Shireman Inc. of Corydon, $608,000. Lewis and Associates of Oolitic submitted the low bid of $597,000. That is still nearly $100,000 more than a two-year-old estimate. But those figures don’t take into account deductions or additions for alternates in the bid package.
Ramsey Volunteer Fire Dept., which has buildings at Ramsey and New Salisbury, would operate the firehouse on S.R. 337, next to the St. Bernard Catholic Church cemetery.
Plans for the building include five bays, a dispatch room, showers and a small locker room, a maintenance area, kitchen and multi-purpose community and/or training room.
Spencer Township Trustee Donnie Satterfield’s plans include using the new fire station for a community center and polling place. In the last election, Spencer Township residents had to vote in neighboring Jackson Township.
‘ Opened two bids for a pumper truck for the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. The two bids were $244,991 and $230,991. The commissioners took the bids under advisement to give the fire department’s officials an opportunity to review the figures.
‘ Narrowed to three the possible firms to be selected as construction manager for the Harrison County Hospital project. The three will be interviewed before a final selection is made. The ‘short list’ includes Wehr Construction, James L. Shireman, and Whittenberg Construction Co.
‘ Appointed Commissioner Jim Heitkemper and Councilman Gary Davis to serve on the common wage board for the construction of the House of New Beginnings.
‘ Signed a letter of appreciation to the custodial staff for the landscaping at the Harrison County Court House.
‘There have been many favorable comments about how beautiful the grounds look and how much this adds to the overall appearance of the county seat of Harrison County,’ the commissioners said in the letter.
‘The Harrison County Court House, having just been renovated, is truly a showcase for the whole county. This also enhances the First State Capital grounds. Tourists come and go away with good memories of an unforgettable place called Corydon, Ind.’

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