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Jail goes live with round-the-clock medical staffing

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

For the first time in history, the Porter County jail now has a licensed health care provider on staff 24 hours a day.

Sheriff Dave Lain said Correct Care Solutions began its services at midnight on July 1, “on a handshake,” even before the Board of Commissioners officially approved the contract by unanimous vote at its meeting Tuesday.

CCS of Nashville, Tenn., which operates in 28 states throughout the nation, was recommended by Lain in May after a thorough search, but it still took a few weeks to iron out the final details with the contract and costs.

The price tag for the entire package, including pharmaceutical and dental services, comes to $1,299,000, Lain said.

Lain reminded the Commissioners that providing medical services is essential according to the guidelines of the National Institute of Corrections.

“This isn’t fluff. It’s a constitutional requirement,” Lain told the Commissioners.

As he has mentioned before, on numerous occasions, Lain said that not having adequate medical staffing posed the biggest liability threat to the County and that the contract with CCS is “essentially an insurance plan,” Lain told the Commissioners. The jail held on average a daily population of 424 inmates in 2012 with 341 beds (Pods A and C are open; Pod B is not).

On staff will be a health care administrator who will set objectives and procedures, a part time and full time licensed practical nurse assisting in patient care, a part-time medical director, a full-time mental health professional to provide counseling to inmates, two full time registered nurses and two part-time registered nurses. Some of the staff will also help part-time at the Juvenile Service Center.

The contract with the County’s previous jail medical staff provider, Advanced Care Solutions, expired at the end of 2012 but they extended services on a month-to-month basis until a permanent firm was decided.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, lauded the effort by Lain and his department as well as the committee made up of various officials who also recommended CCS.

“This has been a long time coming and thanks to everyone who was involved with this,” Evans said. “It’s something that has required a lot of forethought.”

Committee members include County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, County Council President Robert Poparad, D-At Large, Council member Sylvia Graham, D-At Large, County Attorney Betty Knight, Nursing Director at the Health Department Connie Rudd, the Council’s budget and finance specialist Vicki Urbanik, and a few members of the Sheriff’s Department.

Evans ordered the committee not to disband but to monitor the performance of CCS at least until the contract is up for reconsideration in 12 months when they will decide whether to continue.

As for covering the costs, the Commissioners said they will need to get with the County Council on a plan. Lain said he has no ideas of his own but the Council members on the committee have made some suggestions.

Lain said he will ask the County Council to hire four additional jailers to accompany medical staff while they are treating the inmate population. He estimated with salaries and benefits the new hires would be paid up to $50,000 each, or roughly $200,000 which is separate from the $1.29 million CCS contract.

The new contract will be an $800,000 increase over what the sheriff’s department has previously budgeted for medical care. With the additional jailers, the County will have to cover $1 million in costs.

In another matter related to the jail, the Commissioners approved a contract with Securus Technologies that will allow “video visitation,” similar to “Skype-ing,” between inmates and their friends and families who live farther away or cannot visit PCJ for various reasons.

Lain said the system will come at no cost to the County as the visitation fees will be shared with the service provider. Securus’ basic fee will be a charge of $1 per minute, with a 20-minute limit per visit, Lain said.

Loved ones will still have the option of visiting inmates face-to-face at the jail, he said.

Porter County 911 goes to the fair

In other matters at the Commissioners’ meeting, Enhanced 911 Communications Director John Jokantas said that his department will be handling registrations for the County’s Smart911 at the Porter County Fair, July 18-27.

The department will have a booth inside the commercial building at the Expo Center during the fair. Smart911 is a free, confidential service that provides first responders with important information when a caller dials in, letting paramedics know in advance of any medical information or change in location.

Jokantas said the system has made a difference in critical moments of life-and-death situations.

“You never know when those emergencies are going to happen,” he said.

Registration is also available on the County’s website, www.porterco.org.

Also at the Porter County Government fair booth, Information Technologies personnel will be on hand to introduce fairgoers the County’s new website and iPhone app that engages the visitor in an interactive setting.

IT Director Sharon Lippens said the new website could launch as early as this week.

County employees can also purchase discounted fair tickets at $5 on Friday, July 12, and Monday, July 15 at the administration building. Regular fair ticket price is $6.

County Government closed on Friday

County employees will get a four-day weekend this week with the approval of the Commissioners.

Evans announced that the County will have Friday off in addition to the 4th of July holiday on Thursday which prompted cheers throughout the administration building. This gives the employees a total of 13 paid holidays this year.

Other news:

-- The Commissioners approved a contract with Larson-Danielson Construction of LaPorte at a base bid of $158,321 for the build out of the new storage area for election equipment on the first level of the administration center’s parking garage.

-- Presented by County Treasurer Mike Bucko, the Commissioners gave unanimous approval to a letter of agreement with GovTech to improve services with mortgage and escrow companies over tax payments which aims for “better tax payment accuracy.” Bucko said the agreement is at no cost to the County.

-- The Commissioners reappointed Paul Chael to the Porter County Airport Authority board.

Posted 7/3/2013