Committee focuses on inmate medical care, mental health transports

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 2/6/20

The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office’s trial agreement with a company that transports patients for mental health services is proceeding well.

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Committee focuses on inmate medical care, mental health transports

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The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office’s trial agreement with a company that transports patients for mental health services is proceeding well.

The Bradley County Commission’s Law Enforcement Committee was given an update recently on the 90-day trial agreement for Amerimed Emergency Medical Services to take over mental health transports of involuntary and voluntary psychiatric patients.

BCSO Patrol Capt. Jon Collins said Amerimed did 31 transports in December and 38 in January. In addition, the BCSO also did a few transports those months, he added.

“It takes a lot off our plate,” Collins said of Amerimed, adding the agreement seems to be “working pretty well.”

The county commission approved the trial last November, authorizing Sheriff Steve Lawson to negotiate and enter into a letter of agreement designating Amerimed as a secondary transportation agency to provide ambulance transport of involuntary and voluntary psychiatric patients. Commissioners were told Amerimed would save the county money, while shifting mental health transports to a company already working with law enforcement agencies in Hamilton and Shelby counties.

In 2018, it cost Bradley County more than $130,000 to transport people in need of mental health services, with the cost paid from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office’s budget.

Lawson said the BCSO logged 522 transports in 2018.

“We’re actually going to save” by using Amerimed, he added.

The Law Enforcement Committee heard from Tracy Day with Amerimed, who said the company has upgraded some of its ambulance transport equipment to deal with issues that have arisen during the trial period. For example, during one trip the person being transported resisted so strongly that a buckle broke; it has been replaced with a stronger one, she said.

Day said Amerimed has been to Memphis and other locations up to four and five hours away for Bradley County’s transports.

Law Enforcement Committee Chairperson Erica Davis said the committee will meet again in March, at the end of the 90-day trial period, for a review.

Davis also gave an update on the Amerimed trial to the full county commission Monday night.

“We are in the final leg of the trial agreement,” she said.

The committee also discussed the contract related to medical care for inmates at the Bradley County Jail. Davis said it’s time to discuss the contract renewal.

Bradley County currently contracts with Quality Correctional Health Care (QCHC).

Lawson suggested bidding the contract as is, but raising the aggregate liability cost cap back up to $125,000 — it had been reduced to $75,000 for the current contract period — and also bid it with the addition of an intake nurse at the jail.

The aggregate limit is the maximum amount an insurer will pay for covered losses during a policy period.

BCSO Finance Director Cassandra Stone said the contract was bid out in 2017 and 2018, and extended in 2019. She said the cost cap was $125,000, but when the contract was negotiated and extended last year, it was decided to decrease the cost cap to $75,000.

Lawson said $50,000 of the $75,000 cost cap has already been used this year.

“It’s going to cost us money if we go over that,” he said.

Commissioner Howard Thompson asked for the annual cost on medical care at the jail. Stone said it is $1,115,805.

Lawson said he has heard from some companies that want to bid for the Bradley County contract. He suggested offering two ways to bid, then also providing a sheet where companies can list other services they can offer.

To clarify, Lawson wanted one bid with two options.

Lawson added they have to get the bid specifications so they can begin the process for the inmate medical care contract.

“It’s got to be in place by the end of September,” Lawson said of the new contract.

Stone said she doesn’t anticipate she’ll have actual numbers by the time she has to turn in the BCSO’s budget request on March 19.

The committee approved a motion to recommend bidding the inmate medical contract with two options: 1) as is, increasing the aggregate cap to $125,000; and 2) as is, increasing the aggregate cap to $125,000, and adding an intake nurse to the contract.

Davis brought the committee’s recommendation to the full county commission during Monday night’s voting session, where the recommendation was given approved.

In other business, the Law Enforcement Committee:

• Discussed roof maintenance for the building that houses the jail and courts. Lawson said there are water leaks “running down the walls” and the roof needs to be addressed. He said he has had people look at it and believes repairs can be done for $25,000 to $30,000, to extend the life of the roof; it would cost about $750,000 to replace it.

“What I’m told is if we spend the money to make the needed repairs … then that roof will last 10 more years,” Lawson said, adding they can ask about a five-year maintenance contract up to $25,000 a year.

He said that “will prolong some money to build back up” in the reserve fund account.

“This building needs the roof to function right,” Lawson said, noting he has been talking to the mayor about using money from the designated reserve fund for buildings including the jail.

Lawson said $9,000 was spent recently on the “court side” of the building for HVAC repairs. He said heat exchange issues could have brought carbon monoxide into the building, so they had to be fixed.

Looking to the front of the building, he said metal flashing edges are pulled back, adding to leak issues; there are also leaks around pipes. Lawson noted he has been told the overall roof membrane is good.

Commissioner Louie Alford said he understands the courts put no money into the maintenance of the building. Lawson said that is what he understands.

Alford asked if it would be wise to ask Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis to look at that situation. Lawson said he can do that.

Thompson said he believes that has been discussed through the years, but they have not gotten far with it.

Chairman Davis asked if Lawson would have a roof recommendation the next time the committee meets. Lawson said he would.

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