Ottawa County: Sheriff switching health care contract for inmates to Erie County

Larry Limpf

After years of contracting with the Ottawa County Health Department for health care service for inmates at the county jail, Ottawa County sheriff Steve Levorchick has decided to contract with the Erie County Health Department for the service.
A one-year contract agreement with Erie County was presented to the Ottawa County commissioners Thursday, the sheriff said, adding he expected the commissioners to support it.
He said the new contract is a better deal for tax payers and will also lower the county’s liability exposure.
Prior to last November, sheriff’s deputies distributed medications to inmates - a practice the sheriff didn’t like.
“That’s something I always thought needed to be changed and the Ottawa County Health Department stepped up and helped us by having their nurses pass the meds for us,” the sheriff said. “This year, I wanted to broaden our nursing services in the jail so I put bid specifications out to the Ottawa and Erie counties health departments. The day before the specification date, the director of the Ottawa County department told me they couldn’t meet the specifications without hiring four more part-time nurses. So they bowed out and that left Erie County.”
Nurses from the Erie County department started working in the jail on April 1.
“We’ve gone from four med passes to three a day; every one done by the nurses. We now have a nurse in the jail from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and they come back for the 6 p.m. med pass every day of the year. We used to not have nursing on weekends and holidays,” sheriff Levorchick said.
He said the cost is a little higher but the coverage is almost double compared to prior service from the Ottawa County department. The cost of the extra coverage is partially offset by Erie County charging $3.50 less per hour for nursing services.
In addition, by having nurses instead of deputies administering medications, the county is less likely to face a lawsuit in the event of a mistake with medications.
“What if one of my deputies gave the wrong med and someone died? Now it’s the responsibility of the health department and not on us,” the sheriff said.
He has also changed the pharmaceutical company providing the medications and contracted with I.C.P., of Tiffin.
“Now every pill for every inmate is individually packaged. Prior to now, if we got an inmate who stayed for three days but we got a 30-day prescription for him, we would have to throw 27 days worth of medicine away. Now, since they are pre-packaged and sealed we can return them and get a credit. So there will be a cost savings,” sheriff Levorchick said.
The contract with I.C.P., which also provides medications for the Erie County Jail, went into effect April 1.
The sheriff said he toured the Erie County Jail last year with his staff and personnel from the Ottawa County Health Department to observe the nursing services at work.
“We were extremely impressed,” he said. He’s also decided to contract with the Erie County Board of Health for physician services.


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