MORRISON – Whiteside County Jail inmates will be totally under the care of the local health department for medical and behavioral health beginning May 1.
The County Board approved the proposal at Tuesday night’s meeting, but Sheriff John Booker said it will not take effect for a few months, to allow for some training and other details to be worked out.
In talking with Health Department Administrator Beth Fiorini, they discovered about 75 percent of the jail’s 70-80 daily inmates already were clients of the Health Department, so it makes sense to transfer the complete care to that department and discontinue the contract with an outside provider, he said.
“Obviously we’re looking out for the best interests of our inmates, and we can keep continuous care here in the jail,” Booker said. “There was nothing wrong with our outside provider, but sometimes with a different doctor here treatment may change a little and that can cause problems with our staff.”
Booker and Fiorini both hope keeping consistency in the care for the inmates, especially those with behavioral health issues, will go a long way toward warding off any potential problems once inmates are booked into the jail.
“If we take over the care, we can continue with medications and our providers can change that if necessary and (inmates) will be better able to cope,” Fiorini said.
There may be a slight cost savings, although that’s not the primary reason for making the change, Booker said.
“It’s a good fit for everybody, and we have an outstanding health department,” he said. “Mental illness is such an increasing problem, and it can be a safety concern for our staff and other inmates.”
Fiorini’s department has all the resources available to be able to take on the care for the county jail inmates, she said.
“Because of our community health center, we have therapists and providers already. We will do the assessments at the jail and be on-call as needed.”
Inmates also will be seeing another change soon: E-cigarettes will not be allowed in the facility as of March.
“That’s another safety concern. They can ignite and cause problems,” Booker said. “When we first allowed it, there wasn’t a whole lot of research done on the dangers, so we wanted to eliminate any problems.”
The County Board also approved submitting an application to participate in an e-cycling program through the state. Whiteside County Administrator Joel Horn said he hopes to hear from state officials if the county can participate this year in a program, but there still are the collection sites around the county.
“We submitted all of our sites where electronics are accepted now and the state managers will have program managers contact us with the details,” Horn said. “They have until July 1 to do that.”
There are five sites in the county that have accepted electronics, but there is no guarantee the state will accept all of them, he said.