Sheriff Needs Relief With Jail Medications
August 07, 2009
Nearly half of the inmates at the Houston County Jail are on medications, with some of them taking up to 10 drugs a day.
The load — and the consistently full house at the jail — has led Sheriff Andy Hughes to ask the county commission to increase the hours of the jail pharmacist from 20 hours a month to 20 hours a week.
Hughes said Dr. Sam Banner, the jail physician, asked for help for the pharmacist. The jail is currently home to 468 inmates, which is the lowest population in months. Usually, inmate count totals more than 500. That’s in a facility with 394 permanent beds.
“We have 270 inmates who receive medication,” Hughes said. “That’s 572 different doses as many as three times a day. Some inmates take as many as 10 different medications a day.”
Jail Commander Keith Reed said inmates come in with a variety of ailments that require treatment. Over-the-counter drugs like headache remedies are also prescribed.
“We have inmates taking ibuprofen up to certain psych meds,” Reed said.
Inmates are taking drugs for treatment of seizures, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid problems, withdrawal from drugs, HIV, and heart conditions.
“We substitute generics for name brands when we can and certain narcotics we do not dispense at all,” he said.
If an inmate needs treatment, law enforcement must provide it, which can be quite costly.
“Any inmate in our custody, we have an obligation to provide proper health care,” Hughes said. “And if they are in our custody, we have to foot the bill. It saves us a ton of money and trouble having our own doctor in the jail. We also have our own machine to prepackage medications, which we buy wholesale. The pharmacist prepackages several days in advance.”
Having the pharmacist working more hours will help free up three full-time nurses to do other things.
Hughes said it is possible the county could hold off increasing the hours until the start of the new fiscal year, which is Oct. 1, so the additional expenditure could be put in the budget.
The pharmacist is paid $65 an hour, so the cost for the county will rise from $15,600 a year to $67,600, amounting to a $52,000-a-year budget increase for the position.
The current pharmacist has a second job, but this move would allow that person to work with inmates as a full-time job, even though it would not be a 40-hour work week. The pharmacist is considered a contract employee and does not receive any benefits.
Commissioner Frances Cook said she favors having the pharmacist working more as a means to better control the drug inventory.
Commissioners will vote on the increase during their 10 a.m. meeting Monday.
© YellowBrix 2009