Inmate health deal could save county thousands of dollars

Published 10:11 am Saturday, January 17, 2015

When members of the Carter County Commission meet Tuesday, they have several items up for consideration, including a renegotiated contract for inmate health services and a request from a Roan Mountain neighborhood to name a bridge after a late prominent citizen.
If the renegotiated inmate health services contract is approved, it could result in savings of about $17,400 for the county according to Carter County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Tom Smith, who has been handling the contract renegotiation. The Budget Committee passed the updated contract Monday, and it now requires approval by the full Commission.
When the contract between the county and Southern Health Partners was drawn up, it was calculated for an average daily inmate population of 330 inmates. Since then, Smith said the jail population has significantly decreased.
“With the new judges coming on board and with their cooperation the average daily population of the jail has declined from 285 to roughly 190,” Smith said. “It has been like that for about three months now.”
The updated contract was negotiated based on an average daily jail population of 230 inmates.
“We left a cushion in there,” Smith said.
Members of the Budget Committee questioned Smith as to what would happen in the event the jail population grew above the 230 daily average mark.
Under the updated contract, Smith said, the county would pay a “per diem” rate of $1.53 for each inmate over the 230 for each day the average population was higher than the target number.
Southern Health Partners said they are willing to renegotiate the contract again in the event the county sees the population is going to increase above the contract rate, Smith said.
Also under the new agreement, Smith said Southern Health Partners is making the new negotiated rate retroactive back to November when the jail population started seeing the decline and will reimburse the county for the amount overpaid for the services.
After the presentation by Smith, the budget committee approved the renegotiated contract on a unanimous vote. The contract will now be sent to the floor of the full Commission.
On Tuesday Commissioners will also consider a recommendation to be made by the Highway Committee to rename a bridge on Heaton Creek Road after the late Danny Vance, a long-time resident of the Heaton Creek community who was murdered in July 2014.
Several residents of the Heaton Creek community attended the meeting of the Highway Committee earlier this month and presented a petition asking for the bridge to be named after Vance, whose sister also spoke to the committee about her late brother.

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