Proposals sought for jail health care

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Proposals will be sought to complete the privatization of health care services for people held in Warren County custody.

Supervisors OK’d seeking offers following a pitch by Sheriff Martin Pace, who cast it as a way for the county to save money and get out of the health care business.

A single medical care provider “would provide the same service and save money,” Pace told supervisors Monday before a unanimous vote. “At this point, it’s the direction we need to go.”

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Information in hand from at least one company in the business of inmate health care and calls to counties in Mississippi that have contracted for medical services figured into the decision. Pace and County Administrator John Smith consulted with Lauderdale and Madison counties in recent weeks, reporting they were satisfied with what they heard.

“So far, we’ve not found one that’s been dissatisfied,” Pace said.

A staff nurse has been on Warren County payroll for years, and annual costs for doctor visits and prescriptions have varied through the years but have risen recently due to higher medicine costs, Pace has said. Costs for those services are expected to reach $176,000 in 2009-10, according to budget estimates and recent invoices.

Liability in the event of any legal issues would cover the county via the company’s own insurance, Pace assured supervisors.

Warren County privatized food service for inmates in 2005. Private providers of health care to jails and detention centers are often accredited by standard-setting correctional organizations.

Compensation for housing inmates held for the City of Vicksburg is paid per diem whenever space is available for them in the 128-bed jail. Most often, those detained by the city are sent to facilities in other counties, most often Issaquena, with the city responsible for medical expenses.

By law, governments housing inmates are responsible for their medical expenses. Through the years, Warren County has employed several arrangements, usually involving a combination of staff and contractual services.

Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at