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Cutting medical costs at the jail

As someone who is looking for ways to save money at the Harrison County Jail, Jail Commander Bruce LaHue is in a unique position.
First, the new jail commander was a Harrison County Emergency Medical Services EMT for 19 years. Second, he has been a county police officer, although an unusual heart condition prevented him from reaching the exercise standards and thus graduation at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. He worked at Harrison County Hospital EMS in an administrative capacity, and he’s comfortable working with doctors, nurses and others in that environment. Ironically, his own recent health problems ‘ that led him to get a very important second opinion ‘ probably leave him sympathetic to the legitimate health needs of prisoners, too. They, too, have real health problems that may look bogus to skeptical jail guards.
The jail can hold 130 prisoners, and often 75 percent of them are on some kind of medicine.
Someone needs to be examining the cost of medicine for inmates, which is surely one of the most nettlesome problems county officials have to deal with. Inmates need and deserve good medical care just as anyone else does, but security issues and the fear of being hoodwinked must always be considered. Last year, medical care, prescription and nonprescription drugs, vision and dental care for prisoners totaled $262,000. The year before, as managing editor Jackie Carpenter reported in this newspaper two weeks ago, it was $300,000.
LaHue has already found ways to cut costs in practical ways without jeopardizing anyone’s health: buying generic medicine instead of brand names; buying in bulk; buying reader glasses instead of prescription reading glasses; renegotiating contracts with doctors, and asking the hospital to give the county the same discount it gives to Medicare patients.
Some county officials have been thinking about hiring a consultant to examine the medical costs at the Harrison County Justice Center jail in Corydon. For the time being, that may not be necessary ‘ another money-saving effort! They ought to give LaHue and Sheriff Mike Deatrick time to see if their techniques work.

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