Prison OKs agreement on medical costs

Board also to investigate use of body scanner

MCELHATTAN — As the Clinton County Correctional Facility moves forward with renovations, the prison board has approved a cost-saving memorandum of understanding between it and all municipalities that transport detainees to the prison.

It’s an effort by Warden John Rowley to mitigate expenses as the prison has been subjected to high medical costs for people brought there prior to being arraigned and becoming an inmate.

The MOU says the municipality whose law enforcement officers are in charge of transporting suspects brought to the prison are financially responsible for the cost of medical services and supplies incurred before the individuals become arraigned and designated as inmates.

This shifts those costs from the prison onto municipalities. The prison pays medical treatment and supply costs for committed inmates.

The agreement also outlines who holds liability for the suspect prior to arraignment.

“We make no charge to use our holding cells, but we have to outline who pays for medical costs” prior to arraignment, Rowley said.

The board intimated that there have been situations where such medical costs have been significant.

The MOU was drafted by prison board Solicitor Rocco Rosamilia and reviewed by each board member prior to unanimous approval on Wednesday.

It will now be distributed to municipalities for their approval.

In another cost-saving effort, the prison is moving 20 to 25 local male inmates to the Centre County Correctional Facility during renovations.

Prison Board chairman and Commissioner Jeff Snyder said Centre County “owes” Clinton County a certain amount of days to house inmates, not to exceed 1,500 inmate days. That stems from when the local prison housed Centre inmates during construction of its prison. The Clinton prison only has to pay transportation costs and any medical expenses incurred during the inmates’ stay. Rowley estimates the inmates will be back in here within 30 days.

The local prison is undergoing about $2.2 million in upgrades, including to its various security systems, food service, its medical facilities and more.

Talking about improved security and the ongoing opioid crisis, Rowley asked the board to investigate the purchase and use of a body scanner that can discover drugs and other illegal, organic substances on or in the body of a detainee. He referenced a prison in Indiana now using a scanner.

“What’s going on is the drugs are coming in by being swallowed or put in body cavities,” Rowley said.

This, unfortunately, makes them hard to detect.

The prison is arranging for a demonstration of a body scanner, which would show any organic substances stored in the body.

Snyder asked if detainees come in high on drugs and if the prison uses the lifesaving detox drug, Narcan.

“We detox here regularly,” said Rowley.

The question, Rowley said, is not whether the body scanner is important, but “how in the world do you finance something like this?”

He said the device can cost $100,000 or more, and some prisons have gained grant funds to pay for them.

Rowley said he believes the county Department of Probation and Parole and Sheriff’s Office are very interested in also using such a scanner.

Prison Board member and Sheriff Kerry Stover agreed.

Commissioner Paul Conklin suggested the board investigate a leasing plan to buy a scanner.

A scanner demonstration by way of a video is set up for later this month.

In the wake of the prison’s new health care agreements with Correct Care Solutions and Crossroads Counseling, Inc., the board presented some new hires.

Taylor Poorman, who holds a master’s-level degree in counseling, is the prison’s new mental health case manager from Crossroads.

“She constantly has people in [her office],” said Rowley.

“We’re seeing a lot of people, and I think the detainees are excited about that,” said Poorman.

Rowley said Poorman’s work has reduced many detainees from suicide watch.

He said Crossroads’ service has been “incredible.”

Jody Baney, of Avis, is a registered nurse hired as the new health services administrator.

Rowley said the team is delighted to have back.

“She is one of the biggest team players we have here,” said Deputy Warden Angela Hoover.

Other new team members include Mitch Engle, the Aramark food service manager, and Noreen Simpson, the staff development and compliance coordinator.

Since kitchen renovations are underway, Engle has been “proactive” in managing the mobile kitchens for inmates, said Hoover.

The mobile kitchens serve around 600 meals a day to just under 200 inmates.

Jason Kormanic, acting deputy warden, was appointed Sept. 21 after serving six months as the staff development and compliance coordinator.

Kormanic came to the prison with 23 years of experience in corrections along with extensive military experience.

Rowley said Kormanic has been great to “get people where they need to be [and] keep them in compliance.”

Kormanic has approved correctional officers for on-the-job training through CareerLink, which will reimburse half the cost of each eligible individual’s training for up to three months. That should mean about $3,000 in cost savings, he said.

He will also enroll officers in a week-long course that teaches them how to train officers.

Rowley applauded the prison staff, saying, “We’re trying to run a facility during some extensive renovations when we have people living here 24 hours a day.”

Meanwhile, the number of in-county inmates in the prison shifted from an average 95 last September to 84.

Conversely, the number of out-of-county inmates rose from 114 last September to 122.