Lincoln County officials looking for money to pay for inmate medical bills

Tuesday, August 31st 2004, 5:24 am
By: News On 6

CHANDLER, Okla. (AP) _ Lincoln County commissioners are looking for money to pay more than $10,000 in jail inmate medical expenses.

The commissioners held a special meeting Monday with Sheriff Dale McNelly, whose operations and travel account had paid for the bills in the past. Those accounts are depleted, County Clerk Sharon Turk said.

Much of the cost could be eliminated if he were able to keep a nurse on staff of establish a contract with a doctor, McNelly said.

``We have to have a prescription just to be able to give an inmate aspirin,'' McNelly said. ``We've got to find a doctor or a nurse to work with us in a reasonable manner.''

The jail averages an occupancy of 60 to 80 inmates, many on drug-related charges, he said.

``They're going to be there a while,'' McNelly said.

The sheriff said he and Commissioner Ted O'Donnell talked with Seminole County Sheriff Joe Craig about possible solutions to the problem. The department has contracts with Wewoka Fire Department and other agencies.

``Why couldn't we get something like that?'' O'Donnell asked. ``We could do something with the city of Chandler or some of the other areas. They have a deal (in Seminole County) where they don't charge incarceration fees (but negotiate medical expenses).''

McNelly has $41,000 in his personal services account, which is used to fund salaries for jailers. A transfer of $20,000 was approved for the account.

That money will be transferred to a newly established medical account to help better track expenditures.

Lincoln County isn't the only county struggling with inmate medical costs.

Doug Blaine, deputy director of Oklahoma Sheriffs Association, said the group wants to establish some administrative rules to help reduce costs to jails across the state.

``This has been a problem statewide, for some time,'' he said. ``Every county has to deal with it. Even jails that have administrators and aren't run by the sheriff have the same problem.

``It's going to take some time to get things done.''