Kandiyohi County to contract out jail health services
WILLMAR -- In a transition expected to be complete by the end of this year, health services at the Kandiyohi County Jail will be turned over to a private contractor.
WILLMAR - In a transition expected to be complete by the end of this year, health services at the Kandiyohi County Jail will be turned over to a private contractor.
The measure, which will include increased access to much needed mental health services, was approved Tuesday by the County Board of Commissioners.
It is “a big step for us,” said Larry Kleindl, county administrator.
“This is a big change,” he said.
It will cost more: $393,800 for the first year of a three-year contract with MEnD Correctional Care of Waite Park, compared to the current $222,000 annual budget for health services at the jail.
County leaders said the benefits lie in improved services, staffing efficiencies and reduced liability to the county for the medical care provided to jail inmates.
The move was recommended last month by Sheriff Dan Hartog, who oversees the jail.
Health services at the jail have been provided for the past several years through a cooperative arrangement with Kandiyohi County Public Health and local medical professionals. At the time, the partnership was a substantial step forward for local correctional health services, and county officials said it worked well.
But health needs in the jail population have been changing, becoming more chronic and more acute and creating increased challenges for the correctional health staff. Mental health has especially emerged as an unmet need, not only in Kandiyohi County but in correctional facilities across the U.S.
Under the contract with MEnD, there will be more nursing coverage, especially on weekends, Hartog said.
“We do have access to medical consultation 24/7, 365 days a year,” he said.
Mental health services will be available onsite eight hours a week, with telemedicine consultation available outside of these hours, he said.
With more timely care, it’s expected there will be fewer transports to urgent care or the emergency room, Hartog said.
The increase in health professional staffing also should cut down on the need to assign correctional officers to distribute medication, allowing jail staff to be more efficient.
The new arrangement with MEnD will take effect in mid-November, Hartog said. The company, which was founded by a family medicine physician, draws its staff from the local community and will be recruiting and putting people in place over the next two months.
MEnD has correctional health contracts with about two dozen facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Despite the higher cost of bringing in a private contractor, Hartog expects it to ultimately be budget-neutral. There’s money in current jail funds to cover the cost, he said.
The county was not actively looking for a change in jail health services, but the resignation this summer of one of the nurses who staffed the jail created an opportunity to consider another model, Kleindl said.
“The timing was right,” he said.
County Board considers hiring contractor for jail health services