Published: Friday, September 14, 2007
Inmate medical pact goes to N.J. provider
The county was dissatisfied with its current jail
medical services provider.
By MARY GRZEBIENIAK
MERCER, Pa. A New Jersey company has been awarded a contract to provide medical services to inmates at the Mercer County Jail for $350,325 per year beginning Oct. 16.
The three-year contract, approved Thursday by Mercer County commissioners, has an annual cost-of-living adjustment.
The cost is about $50,000 more than the current provider, Southern Health Partners of Chattanooga, Tenn., would have charged for the coming year.
Jeff Gill, county jail warden, said, however, the new company, CFG Health Systems of Marlton, N.J., is expected to significantly improve liability concerns and expand services.
He said one major improvement is that CFG will allow inmates to have psychiatric consultations with New Jersey psychiatrists through Internet videoconferencing.
Gill said inmates with mental health difficulties now wait three weeks to one month for an appointment with a local psychologist or psychiatrist.
While waiting for their appointments, some inmates reach a point where they must be committed to the Warren State Hospital, Warren, Pa. He hopes the in-house consultations will lower the number of such commitments.
In addition, county Controller Tom Amundsen, who is a prison board member, said CFG has promised to have a physician on call for more hours than Southern and to have better coverage for the midnight shift.
Gill said CFG is also working toward accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and that this will be significant credential in protecting the jail from liability, which he said is a major concern in corrections.
Commissioners and other members of the county prison board have not been happy with Southern's performance and recently issued a 60-day notice of contract termination.
Commissioner Brian Beader said earlier this week that Southern was not "living up to their contract."
County officials said purchase of prescription medications for inmates will be separate from the contract cost.
The county also agreed to pay $30,113 to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania for a one-year inmate medical cost-containment program.
Services will include reviewing bills, negotiating contracts and making sure applicable discounts are given.
Gill said the jail's total budget for inmate health care is $520,000 this year.
The commissioners also handled these matters:
Agreed to advertise for replacement of a bridge on Diamond Road in Pine Township. County Engineer Mark Miller said construction is set for spring, 2008.
Approved a contract for Project Star/The Children's Institute, Pittsburgh, for foster care and adoptive services at $76 per day on behalf of Children and Youth Services.
Hired Justin Barnes of Mercer and Michael Harris of Girard, Ohio, as part-time deputy sheriffs at $13.40 hourly.