County jail to adopt new healthcare system

Posted 1/14/20

The Madison County jail will transform methods of providing healthcare to prisoners, as county commissioners accepted a proposal from Southern Health Partners to provide on-site and remote care for $62,120 a year.

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County jail to adopt new healthcare system

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The Madison County jail will transform methods of providing healthcare to prisoners, as county commissioners accepted a proposal from Southern Health Partners to provide on-site and remote care for $62,120 a year.

The change comes as a result of the Sandra Bland Act passed by the Texas legislature in 2017, which mandates county jails divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment and requires that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths.

“This is a big component of (the act),” Madison County Judge Tony Leago said at Monday’s regular meeting of the commissioners’ court. “It’s a costly component of that.”

The proposal from Southern Health Partners, which already provides service for 34 other Texas counties, beat out a proposal from Oklahoma-based Turn Key Health Clinics, who proposed an annual fee of $68,988 and did not include tele-medicine services offered by Tennessee-based South Health Partners.

The competing proposals were the only two for the county, though Capt. Larry Shiver of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office contacted 25 providers.

“The first thing they would ask was ‘how many beds do you have?’,” Shiver told commissioners. “A lot of them would say if you have less than 500, we’re not going to talk to you. Others said 250.”

The Madison County jail has an average headcount of 35 inmates, Shiver said.

County jails all over Texas are contracting with outside companies to manage the healthcare operations for inmates after Waller County paid out $1.8 million to the family of Sandra Bland, who committed suicide in that county’s jail in 2015.

“The legislature decided they’re not going to let it happen again, but of course didn’t give us any money,” Leago said.

In addition to providing medical and mental health care, Southern Health Partners will take over medical records keeping.

“We have to give them a place in the jail to keep records,” Shiver said, adding that the county will also need to provide online access to the company.

Inmates in the county jail will have 24-hour access to tele-medicine and tele-health resources and doctors and nurses will make regular on-site visits.

Also on Monday, commissioners approved a new maintenance contract for the county’s Weatherbug system with an annual cost of $1,850 per year. The agreement will cover maintenance and repairs to the system, which cost a minimum of $900 per visit.

“We were prepping for some repairs that were going to be at least $1,000,” said Shelly Butts, the county’s emergency management coordinator. “This (contract) would cover that.”

Commissioners also agreed to accept a bid from D&L Plumbing of North Zulch to replace the two water heaters at the county jail.

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