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Health care costs could drop at jail

Monday morning at the meeting of the Harrison County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Mike Deatrick and Dr. Norman Johnson of Advanced Correctional Healthcare presented a new health-care program for the inmates at the Harrison County Jail.
Deatrick told the commissioners that under Indiana law, medical treatment must be provided to any inmate who requests it but the issue has become urgent when local doctors, who were providing medical care, with its services, complaining about being left with the bills when an inmate had pre-existing medical conditions.
Deatrick asked the board to approve a contract with Advanced Correctional Healthcare, of Peoria, Ill., which is the leading provider of inmate healthcare in the state.
The healthcare program includes in-service training for all staff, a doctor who would visit the jail each week, fill or refill prescriptions, and nursing services. The service would cost a little more than $161,000 a year. This year inmate medical care could reach an estimated $320,000, Johnson said.
He went on to say that most of the money will stay in Harrison County. ‘We’ll be establishing contracts with local hospitals, for off-site care, and will get emergency pharmaceuticals, that we don’t have at the jail from a local pharmacy.’
The medicines that are shipped in instead of purchased locally will cost a substantial amount less, he said.
The proposed contract is based on 160 inmates at the jail, and there would be a $2.07-per-day charge for each additional detainee that is housed in the jail.
The contract also can be stopped at any time. ‘The program allows the sheriff to have complete control all the time. He can fire us at any time,’ said Johnson.
Commissioner chairman J.R. Eckart said, ‘It looks like a good plan, but we need more time to look it over.’ The commissioners agreed to review the proposal and discuss it again at the county council meeting Monday night.
In another matter, Harrison County Economic Developer Darrell Voelker stopped by to show a draft contract that would have Harrison County give $500,000 over the next five years, $100,000 per year, to Lucas Oil as a ‘Rail Availability Surcharge,’ to help ensure Lucas and Harrison County that the railroad continues to be open.
The ‘Rail Availability Surcharge’ was thought of after Lucas Oil purchased the railroad that runs through the Harrison County Industrial Park. A concern the commissioners had was that the Economic Development Corp. would have the right to purchase the railroad from Lucas within a year after the date that an agreement has been signed.
Considering that Lucas Oil has expanded not only in Harrison County and Indiana, but across the country, it’s important to keep railroads and Lucas Oil in Harrison County. ‘Where will Harrison County be without the railroads?’ asked Commissioner James Goldman. ‘That’s the bottom line.’
Another issue on the contract is what should happen if Lucas decides to purchase the old Keller rail line. Commission chair Eckart saw Lucas Oil purchasing that particular rail line as a possibility, since it’s ‘the only motor that doesn’t have his name on it.’
The contract will be changed and brought up again at the commissioners’ meeting in two weeks.
The commissioners approved several requests, one being the 2007 budget for the Gerdon Youth Center, which now goes before the county council.
Gerdon Youth Center Director Jennifer Best presented a budget for $175,000, a $35,000 increase from last year, and the commissioner’s approved $150,000.
Besides the annual renewals and maintenances, the youth center is starting the process of become a Boys and Girls Club of America for Harrison County. The program, Best said, ‘should allow us to bring in a diverse group of kids, and we want to be able to accommodate for a larger, more diverse amount of kids.’ The youth center currently has between 600 and 700 users, and is hoping to start up more programs for the 14 to 18 age group in 2007.
In another matters, the director of the Harrison County Lifelong Learning Center, Doug Robson, gave its mid-year update. This year, 165 students have attended its computer basics courses. Six students have completed the Certified Nursing Assistant program. Lifelong Learning has been offering a welding course at North Harrison High School two or three times a year. Also, its GED/ABE classes have really taken off, Robson said. ‘We’ve been seeing about 12 to 20 new students a month in this program,’ said Robson.
Commissioner Jim Heitkemper added, ‘No matter what programs we should ever consider, this is one need that needs to be continuously done.’