Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw
By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)————————————–The unanimous approval by Oconee County Council during their June meeting Tuesday night to award Southern Health Partners, with its corporate offices in Chattanooga, TN, with the contract to provide inmate health care at the Oconee County Detention Center will save taxpayers money, says Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw.
“As we continue to move toward opening the new Detention Center in Oconee County, we have tried to explore every cost associated with operating a Detention Center in hopes of trying to save taxpayer money on items such as medical services,” according to Sheriff Crenshaw. “A couple of companies bid on medical services and the one company that was selected last night and approved at County Council was a contract with Southern Health Partners, which has a history of providing health care in correctional facilities.”
“We are pleased and I think this is a move in the right direction,” continues Sheriff Crenshaw. “The Sheriff’s Office is looking to try to save money in every aspect and this was a good cost saving measure for Oconee County.”
The amount of the contract approved for Southern Health Partners, according to Sheriff Crenshaw, was $254,820. When compared with the cost for inmate health care last year at the Detention Center, Sheriff Crenshaw projects that the savings will amount to around $112,000. In last year’s budget for the jail, the combined costs for all medical services, including employee pay, prescriptions, medical supplies, doctor and hospital visits totaled over $366,000.
“Historically, the county jail has provided medical services in house with registered nurses and a contract with a local medical doctor,” continues Sheriff Crenshaw. “The county also incurred the cost for prescription drugs, doctor’s appointments and hospital visits on sentenced inmates. If someone comes in presentenced, they are responsible for their own medical care.”
“Southern Health Providers will be providing their own staff as far as nursing staff and a contract doctor, as well as dental services,” says the Sheriff.
“The Sheriff’s Office is not unlike other organizations that have seen medical costs increase,” continues the Sheriff. “In prescription medication over the last four years, we have gone from $90,000 a year up to almost $139,000. The advantage to going to outsourcing is that Southern Health Partners is in numerous correctional facilities so that they can purchase medication at a much cheaper cost. It should also cut down on our transportation costs and they have their own portable x-ray machine that they bring into the facility. We should see some additional savings as we move forward.”
One other benefit besides taxpayer savings, according to Sheriff Crenshaw, is the fact that it increases our coverage in the new Detention Center. Where in the past coverage was provided by two staff nurses and a medical provider for eight hours a day, five days a week, Southern Health Partners will provide twelve hour a day coverage, seven days a week, which means, for example, that Detention Officers will no longer be in charge of dispensing medications.
Plus, another potential benefit for taxpayers will be a reduction in liability for Oconee County in that the medical provider will be responsible for medical care and any liability will be shared by the company and Oconee County, according to Sheriff Crenshaw. Finally, Southern Health Care Partners will be in a position to negotiate to get the lowest possible price from insurance providers and medical suppliers as well.
State law requires Oconee County to provide medical care for those who are incarcerated at the Detention Center.
Southern Health Partners will begin their services at the Detention Center on July 1st and then transition those services to the new Detention Center, which is scheduled to open later on this year.