Scott County commissioners concerned about jail inmates seeking outside medical treatment

Thursday, December 16, 2010

BENTON, Mo. -- The number of Scott County Jail inmates taken to outside health care facilities is becoming a concern for county officials.

"We feel we're seeing a rise in the number of prisoners being treated outside our facility," said presiding commissioner Jamie Burger during the regular county commission meeting Tuesday.

The county is finishing the second year of a three-year contract Dec. 31 with Health Professionals Limited of Peoria, Ill.

"The idea of the contractual service is to treat as many people in house as we possibly can," Burger said. "It takes manpower to transport these people to and from those (outside) health care facilities."

Personnel transporting prisoners means there are fewer at the jail, Burger said.

"It's a cost to the county and to the taxpayers," he said.

Burger said anytime a prisoner leaves the jail it is a security risk, as well.

The county pays over $138,000 per year to provide in-house medical services for offenders held in the county jail on state charges, Burger noted, and unlike boarding costs, "that's nonreimbursable," he said.

Before the meeting ended, HPL officials phoned commissioners and asked for copies of bills from outside facilities for treating inmates so they could review them and see if some of those treatments should have been provided at the jail.

On a related issue discussed Tuesday, some of those health care facilities have billed the county after treating prisoners.

"State statutes say the prisoners take care of their own medical expenses," commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said.

"We're just providing transportation," sheriff Rick Walter said. "If you take a taxi to the hospital, do they bill the taxi driver?"

Ziegenhorn said it is especially a problem when the bills go unpaid and the county is turned over to collections.

"We don't need someone thinking we are in collections -- we pay our bills in Scott County," he said.

Walter also confirmed for commissioners that other jail facilities boarding Scott County prisoners are asked to not take Scott County's prisoners to medical facilities. Walter said he advises officials at those jails to "call us, and we'll take them."

Pertinent address:

Benton, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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