Jail medical costs expected to reach $700K

Posted on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 8:00 am

STAFF WRITER

marian galbraith

Medical costs for the Coffee County Jail, budgeted at $400,000 for the current fiscal year, are projected to increase to roughly $700,000 by fiscal year end on June 30, according to county purchasing officer Andy Farrar.

Farrar handles the jail’s medical bills and contracts.

“We were at $395,957 through the end of February,” Farrar told the county Budget and Finance Committee last week, “and based on what the monthly costs have been running, we’re probably going to be another $250,000-$300,000 by the end of June.”

Accounts and Budgets director Marianna Edinger said she was not sure where to find this funding, other than from the undesignated fund balance, which was already low, and/or from other departments.

Farrar said while the pharmaceutical bills seem to have gone down slightly since the new jail doctor (David Florence) took over in January, most of the overage is coming from unforeseen “major medical” incidents such as fights, overdoses and other health problems that require hospitalization and/or airlift transportation to Nashville or other hospitals at a cost of $30,000 per trip.

Commissioner Rush Bricken asked why the number of airlifts seemed to be so much higher this year, but neither Farrar nor Sheriff Steve Graves knew the answer.

Farrar said this fiscal year has seen four airlifts so far, compared to only one per year in previous years.

At the end of their discussion, EMS director Michael Bonner pointed out the relationships between the jail’s medical costs and the work detail program.

“If the sheriff can stop the contraband, they can probably cut the medical costs substantially because the overdoses are probably causing some of those airlifts,” Bonner said.

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