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County leaders hire company to provide health care to inmates

Medical check up (clipping path included)PASCAGOULA — Jackson County supervisors have hired a private company to handle medical, mental health and dental care for inmates at the jail.

Supervisors say the $650,000 annual contract covers health care services to inmates at the adult and juvenile detention centers. The company is offering primary care, mental health and 24-hour, on-call service.

Board president Troy Ross has said the move is meant to reduce liability for the county, bring more health services in-house and eventually save some money.

The new jail will actually have a dental chair as part of the medical suite.

Ross says negotiating mental health care for inmates also has been an issue.

Currently, the county provides some in-house care by county-employed health care professionals. There are two nurses on staff, and they will have the option of signing on with Health Assurance of Jackson.

The board also voted to terminate its contract for medical services with Dr. William Ross and Dr. Samuel Simmons, who provided care at the jail several days each week.

There’s a 90-day termination clause in the doctors’ contract, County Administrator Brian Fulton said.

“If we can do it sooner, we’ll try to do that as well” so Health Assurance can move on in, he told supervisors.

Currently, inmates must go off site to Gautier for any mental health needs, but Health Assurance will bring in social workers to counsel and “triage” inmates on site, and a psychiatrist will also be available.

Chief Deputy Ray Bates said it has been difficult historically to find dental and mental health care for inmates.

When giving a presentation before the board in February, Health Assurance’s proposal pointed to an $845,000 annual cost, would provide the county with more than nine full-time staff and include health care for juveniles.

County Comptroller Josh Eldridge said that sum was lowered in negotiations by removing dental care and by removing a $125,000 allowance for medical pharmacy costs.

Instead, the county will keep its current dental plan, he said, and will pay the actual cost of pharmaceuticals, whether that cost is higher or lower than the $125,000 allowance in the original proposal.

The company will still administer the pharmacy needs of the jail, Eldridge said, and that could help save some money.

 

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