Commission increases health care presence in St. Clair County jails

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 4:00 pm

Last week, the St. Clair County Commission approved a sizable increase — both in expense and coverage — in healthcare for inmates detained in county jails.

On Thursday, Feb. 19 during a special called meeting, the Commission selected Quality Correctional Health Care (QCHC) to provide 24-hour care at its jails in Ashville and Pell City. QCHC’s proposal was selected over two others, and each proposal offered the choice of 24-hour and 12- or 8-hour staffing in the facilities.

The decision will increase both the coverage and cost of inmate health care. The two jails contain approximately 200 inmates, who are currently served by St. Vincent’s Health System. The county pays approximately $360,000 annually to St. Vincent’s for the service.

County Attorney James Hill said St. Vincent’s has been a wonderful partner to the County and performed exceptional work, however the two parties recently determined that there is a distinct difference between what Hill called “clinical and correctional health care.” They agreed that using a service that specialized in correctional health care would benefit all, Hill said.

QCHC General Counsel Justin Barkley said QCHC would begin providing 24/7 health care at the jails in March. The annual contract is for approximately $530,000 annually, representing a $170,000 increase (about $14,000 monthly) in the cost of the service for the County.

However, multiple Commission members agreed that 24-hour care in the facilities promised better service and provided great benefit to local law enforcement. The number of inmate transports required by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office would decrease, allowing deputies more time in the community.

Hill also said the Commission’s decision represents not only a commitment to care but also a determination to provide exceptional services to all residents of the county.

“Right now, we have better options than we’ve ever had in the past,” Commissioner Jeff Brown said. “I feel better about it than I ever have.”