Porter County sheriff wants more medical staff at jail
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 16, 2012 4:42PM
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:47AM
VALPARAISO — Porter County Sheriff Sheriff David Lain received the approval of the Porter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to ask for requests for proposals for medical staff at the county jail.
Under the current system, four registered nurses who are county employees provide health care under the direction of a nurse from Advanced Correctional Healthcare of Peoria, Ill. The arrangement has been in place since 2006.
“For many years, we have limped along with jail medical staffing that is not efficient to cover medical staffing 24/7 at the jail,” Lain said, adding the system, which does not provide a nurse on duty overnight to evaluate medical needs, causes costly trips to the emergency room.
Not having full medical staff at the jail could open the county up to costly litigation, running in the millions of dollars, Lain said.
While Advanced is being invited to submit a proposal, Lain said he wanted to open the medical staffing up to other companies, and also incorporate providing medical staff to the Juvenile Detention Center.
The current contract with Advanced is for $250,000, but having a full medical staff could cost $800,000, Lain said. The request for proposal includes several options, including having all contract staff work at the jail, or all county-paid nurses.
He expects the proposals to be opened on Nov. 7, at the commissioners’ next meeting, and for a provider to be in place by Jan. 1.
In other business, President John Evans, R-North, took four Porter County Council members and Auditor Bob Wichlinski to task for the $38 million county budget, which passed on a 4-3 vote Monday.
Evans singled out Sylvia Graham, D-At-large; Jim Biggs, R-1st District; Jim Polarek, R-4th District; and Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd District; for passing a budget that did not provide $500 raises for county employees; underfunds the employee health insurance plan, as well as the Public Employees’ Retirement Fund and the Federal Insurance Contributions Act; and did not leave funding available for increased medical staff at the jail and opening the third pod there.
“This budget has left the county on a fiscal cliff and is a disservice to our taxpayers and residents,” he said, later adding the council members also rejected an offer by the commissioners of $2.5 million in county economic development income tax money to help shore up the budget, an offer that was good for up to four years.
Evans said the budget plan he crafted with Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large; Laura Blaney, D-At-large; and Karen Conover, R-3rd District, would have left the county’s general fund with a reserve of almost $4.2 million.