Knox County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a new contract for medical services at the prison, a deal that more than doubles the current cost.
But Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll said the services are needed and will benefit the entire community.
The deal approved Dec. 28 with Correctional Health Services, LLC is for three years – starting Jan. 1, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2024. The company was one of four bidders to provide the service.
The current inmate medical service contract expires Dec.31 and costs the county $ 379,000 for 2021.
The contract with Correctional Health Services is $ 885,654 in 2022, $ 898,939 in 2023 and $ 916,918 in 2024.
Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll said he recognizes the huge increase.
“We are investing in the people we have at our facility,” Sheriff Carroll told Commissioners.
He said 80% of those incarcerated suffered from mental health issues, substance abuse disorders, or both.
âIt’s an effort to do a better job of correcting the disorders that people are grappling with,â he said. âThe whole community will benefit. “
The commissioners accepted.
âI certainly see the value and the benefits to the community,â said Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether.
Commissioner Sharyn Pohlman said there would be a long-term benefit for the whole community.
Knox County Correctional Facility is designed to hold up to 70 incarcerated people, the sheriff said, but last year saw an increase. The sheriff said that at one point, thanks to an agreement with the Two Bridges Regional Prison in Wiscasset and the Waldo County Rehabilitation Center in Belfast, Knox County was responsible for 98 people in prison. He said much of that increase was due to the pandemic and the closure of courts for a period of time trying to catch up.
Anyone who comes to jail and stays there for a period of time receives a detailed medical examination that includes discussions about mental health and substance abuse issues as well as many other assessments, Carroll said.
In recent years, mental health and substance abuse disorders have become much more prevalent and the sheriff has said it is the responsible duty of the county; and with recent litigation at another county jail, an obligation to do a better job of resolving these issues.
âSince I took office, a first task that I established here was to prosecute people on assisted drug treatment when they entered prison so that we continue this treatment. In the past, medical care was immediately stopped at the entrance; stop all recovery efforts. We also provided the drug on discharge with an already scheduled appointment to continue treatment with an external supplier, âCarroll said.
âThis goes hand in hand with our efforts to help people, especially those who seem to keep returning to prison due to a disorder. We need to get rid of the stigma and help our family, friends and neighbors; people who live in our communities to become successful contributing members of society. We’re trying to do a better job of helping them reconnect positively with their families (especially their children), find housing, jobs and transportation, âCarroll said.
People lose their medical benefits when they are incarcerated and it would take days or even weeks to recover them once released, he said. Now processes are in place to ensure that they start collecting these benefits on the first day of their release.
âMoney spent simply on incarceration can be better spent on treating those in need. We still have a long way to go, but I think our approach will make a difference and hopefully save lives, âhe said.
The sheriff said the sharp rise in costs is due to several reasons.
âBesides the fact that overall medical costs have skyrocketed, this contract dramatically increases our ability to help with more mental health services, increase medically assisted treatment efforts to include induction, and hire more people to. provide these services. The company / contractor we hired offers a full set of benefits (the old company didn’t) to help retain our current medical staff that we have here. Our current medical staff are exceptional, âsaid the sheriff.
During this year’s budget process, the Sheriff said he had abandoned much-needed capital projects at the prison so that he could provide more comprehensive services to help address the issues in our communities which as we know all of them are killing people and destroying many more people’s lives along the way.
At least one member of the medical staff will be on site every day for 12 hours. There are overlaps where some days may be more covered. During hours when medical personnel are not on site, a primary medical provider is on call.
âOver the past few years, due to limited mental health and addiction resources, the county jail has unfortunately become the de facto place to address such issues,â the sheriff said.
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