Jail medical services a ‘critical issue’, says Rhodes

By Jeff Shultz

When the Garvin County Excise Board met with county officers to get their estimated needs, board members were slightly taken back by the Garvin County Sheriff’s request.

Sheriff Larry Rhodes stated he would need $1.9 million for the 2017- 18 fiscal year, a huge increase from the $717,045 he received for the prior fiscal

“That amount is actually around 39 percent of my total budget needs,” Rhodes said.

Realistically, though, Rhodes said he would be happy with $784,045, which would give him the money he needs to establish onsite medical services at the county jail.

“We need someone here at the jail to provide medical services to the inmates we keep here,” he said.

Rhodes said he would like to have a nurse or nursing practitioner who reports to a doctor.

“Right now we have around 93 inmates in our jail,” Rhodes added. “You can’t have that many people in one place without have some kind of medical issue pop up.”

Rhodes said an onsite medical service would distribute medicine to inmates as well as do medical screenings when a person is booked into the jail.

“Right now we have to err on the side of caution when we book someone in the jail. If they tell us they have high blood pressure or diabetes, then we have to take their word for it.

“A medical screening at the time they are booked will give us a plan on how we will treat them medically during the time they are in jail.”

Rhodes added that having onsite medical services would mean some savings for his budget.

“As it is now, we’re taking inmates to the hospital or a doctor’s office and they are coming back with the doctor telling us there’s nothing wrong with them.

“Well, we’re still charged for a doctor or hospital visit. So, I think we’ll see some savings by having an onsite medical staff,” Rhodes said.

Currently, Rhodes’ office has a bid from Dr. Dennis Whitehouse’s office to provide medical services for the jail. Whitehouse’s bid was for $117,000.

Rhodes said last year he spent a little over $50,000 on inmate medical services such as clinic and hospital visits.

“It would be a great help to us if the Excise Board kicks in an additional $67,000 to go with that $50,000 so we can have Dr. Whitehouse and his staff provide medical services to us.”

Rhodes said having onsite medical services at the jail is the “most critical issue facing the county right now.”

“These inmates have medical needs and if we don’t properly take care of them, we could be looking at a number of risks including possible litigation,” he said.

Rhodes won’t know the answer to his request for several weeks.

“Right now, in our judicial district – which is Cleveland, McClain and Garvin Counties – we’re the only county jail without onsite medical services.”