Crow Wing County Board contracts with new medical provider for the jail
“... Honestly, as an inmate, ... you don't feel like your health is going to be taken seriously whatsoever. But that's not what I experienced while I was there," said Amber Scott.
BRAINERD — After securing a Band-Aid as a temporary fix after the Crow Wing County Jail’s medical provider declared bankruptcy last year, a new provider is stepping up.
The jail medical services were put into question and needed their own emergency fix after Sartell-based MEnD Correctional Healthcare Services declared bankruptcy in late 2022. The county also learned in December last year that MEnD’s employees were working but not being paid . Those staff members included four nurses and three medical technicians who were assigned to the Crow Wing County Jail. Those staff members continued to show up for work even though they hadn’t received a paycheck for two pay periods.
The county negotiated an early end to the MEnD contract and most of that company’s employees became temporary county employees and were paid for their work . The move was considered a way to keep the needed jail medical services going as a short-term solution until the county found a replacement or an alternate service plan. To that end, the county took over the medical services as of Dec. 31, 2022, and contracted with Essentia Health to provide the medical oversight required such as dispensing medications and authorizing medical procedures.
The county sought proposals from other providers and Tuesday, May 9, the Crow Wing County Board had three to consider.
Options included Advanced Correctional Healthcare, a vendor specializing in jail health care services, Essentia Health, or continuing with the county’s current status or a variation of it. A county committee looked at the proposals in an attempt to match costs and noted all were done with an average inmate daily population estimate of 152 people with an average stay of 17 days in jail. Costs were able to go up or down, depending on the jail population. The numbers were higher than the county budgeted for in 2023.
Advanced Correctional Healthcare’s quote was $1,057,999 with Essentia Health’s quote of $1,046,500 and the county estimating its cost at $997,373.
Tim Houle, county administrator, noted if the county does provide the services alone it also bears the sole liability and there isn’t 100% confidence they could deliver at that cost estimate. The committee, or work group, looking at the proposals recommended contracting with Essentia Health for the jail health services. While the services will cost the county more, Houle said they believe there will be some offsetting costs for increased jail revenue.
The board agreed.
During the discussion, one member of the audience rose to speak.
Amber Scott said she was recently in the Crow Wing County Jail and had medical difficulties.
“I was arrested without just cause or due process,” she said. “All that aside, what I experienced while I was in the jail was incredibly positive.
“... Honestly, as an inmate, you already feel discriminated against, automatically, you don't feel like your health is going to be taken seriously whatsoever. But that's not what I experienced while I was there. So whatever you choose to do, as long as you make sure you focus on good people that actually care about the inmates, I think you're gonna be OK.”
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @DispatchBizBuzz.