Inmate health costs soar in Mesa County |

Inmate health costs soar in Mesa County

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” The cost of medical care for inmates in the Mesa County jail is expected to soar by more than 40 percent this year.

The jail, in far western Colorado, has budgeted nearly $1.4 million for health care in 2008, compared with the $982,000 it spent in 2007.

“We about had a cow,” County Commissioner Janet Rowland said. “It is a lot of money.”

County Administrator Jon Peacock blamed the increase on inflation, higher medicine costs and more prisoners. He said officials are looking at ways to economize.

“We certainly are going to be working with the sheriff’s department to look at additional opportunities to mange health costs,” he said.

State law requires jails to provide a minimum level of health care. Mesa County jail supervisor Steve Farlow said jail health care isn’t lavish.

Sick call is twice a week, and inmates are required to pay $8 to see a doctor or dentist and $5 to see a nurse. Prescription refills, lab work and X-rays are $4 each.

Dental care is limited to filling cavities and pulling teeth.

The county does not pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions.

The county contracts with Englewood-based Correctional Healthcare Management for inmate medical care. Rowland said it was the only company to bid on the three-year contract.

Farlow said when the contract comes up for renewal in 2010, the cost could rise another 30 to 50 percent.

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