County prescription card an option
Medical expenses for inmates discussed

Beth Rumsey, Staff Writer

“I’ve never seen claims like this,” said Ripley County Commissioner President Robert Reiners at the commissioners' meeting December 4. He was referring to the claim of over $4000 for medical/dental expenses for inmates presented to the commissioners by the sheriff’s department.

According to Sheriff Tom Grills, the entire expense is for 11 inmates. When prisoners arrive at the jail with broken teeth or infections from poor dental care, the protocol is to give antibiotics until the prisoners can be seen by a dentist. Chief Deputy David Pippin stated, “We want them (inmates) to leave the jail no worse than they come in.” Sheriff Grills has also implemented a $250 cap, allowed by the state, per inmate for dental work.

Pippin noted that medical expenses this year have been a “nightmare.” He provided examples of an inmate who had seizures and one who fell in the shower and split his head. According to the sheriff, most of the prisoners who come into the jail have no insurance. He did note that the Department of Corrections will reimburse the expense if the inmate is part of the DOC. “I’ve done everything in my power to defray the costs,” said Sheriff Grills. “This is a serious issue across the state.”

Auditor Mary Ann McCoy suggested the sheriff’s department use the county prescription drug card to help with expenses. “I know that other counties are using this card to help with payment,” said McCoy. The sheriff agreed to look into the matter.

The Inmate Medical Fund, presented to the county council, to charge inmates to see nurses and for prescription drugs, was approved unanimously. The Ripley County Sheriff Home Incarceration Work Program ordinance was approved unanimously. Sheriff Grills presented County Attorney Neil Comer with information concerning a lawsuit over a vest.

The sheriff requested an amendment to the county policy handbook for the sheriff’s department concerning the privacy policy. He referred to an employee who allowed access to private information and later was released for insubordination. According to Attorney Comer, the standard operation procedure needs to be specific to the sheriff’s department. “I don’t know how we can write a rule that applies county wide,” Comer noted. This issue will be presented at the next county council meeting.
Funds were received by the sheriff’s department to allow three more jailers to be hired. Sheriff Grills requested the employee overtime policy be amended to exclude the sheriff’s office. This will allow them to work 12 hour shifts, with three employees on each shift and will not exceed 80 hours per two week pay period. This will be presented at the next county council meeting.

Sheriff Grills expressed concern over the repeated attempts to get a vendor to replace tiles in one of the inmate’s showers that are falling off. He noted that the shower has been shut down until the tiles can be replaced. With the number of inmates increasing, Grills is concerned that the jail will be in violation. He requested the commissioners contact the vendor to resolve the problem.

John Gause of Apex Benefit Group presented bids for health, dental and life insurance. The county employee health insurance will stay with Anthem, although the deductible will be raised to $750 and office co-pay increased to $30 per doctor visit. It was suggested that a representative from Apex and Anthem be available in the future for any questions that the employees might have. Auditor McCoy noted that the $94,000 health insurance premium could be paid for on December 31 out of current money in the group insurance fund. The motion was unanimously passed. “You really put out a good effort and we appreciate it,” stated Reiners to Gause.

The commissioners unanimously passed the motion to accept Fort Dearborn Dental Insurance, which includes orthodontia. This policy will cost the county $44,600 per year. Gause noted that the employee contributions will stay the same, with the exception of those who choose to have the orthodontia rider. The county employee life insurance will be with the same company as before, Fort Dearborn, with the same coverage of $15,000. This was passed unanimously.

County liability insurance bids were presented to the commissioners by Brad Samples. The current policy is held by St. Paul Travelers Insurance, and the renewal will include additional coverage for the Busching Bridge in Versailles. The bid by HCC Insurance Company had premiums “about the same” as Travelers with a few advantages. For example, general liability is $1,000,000 with $3,000,000 aggregate and $10,000 medical payment coverage in case of an accident on public property. The commissioners unanimously accepted the bid for HCC Insurance. It was noted by Attorney Comer that Travelers Insurance should be informed of any possible claims.

In other business:
• Ted Spurlock, secretary/treasurer of the Ripley County Redevelopment Commission, presented the re-appointments of current board members. This was passed unanimously.
• The salary reimbursement for the Ripley County EMA was unanimously approved.
• The mechanics budget for the highway department will go before county council due to an increase. According to Junior Heaton, Ripley County Highway Superintendent, $203,770 was approved, but the department has incurred $205,637 in costs for gas, tires, lubricant, etc.
• Ripley County Assessor Shawna Bushhorn requested additional office space for files that are in use every day. Commissioner Folz expressed concern over a suggestion that the files be stored in the hallway of the courthouse. He suggested a different style of file cabinets be used. Bushhorn agreed to look into the situation, and see what options are for file cabinets.
• Johnnie Lohrum, maintenance, had nothing to report, but noted that there will be some trees planted this week.
• Tad Brinson, planning commissioner, discussed the plans for the next Planning Commission meeting.
• Kelly Vollet, technology coordinator, informed the commissioners of the placement of a trial copier in the surveyor’s office. The office will receive a copier in January. “I want to commend the Office Shop (of Batesville) for all of their help,” said Vollet. It was noted by Commissioner Folz that Vollet is doing exactly what the state recommends for the technology department.
• The 2008 holiday schedule and the commissioners’ schedule was unanimously approved.
• Katharine Taul, Ripley County tourism director, requested approval for the current board members to continue to serve two more years. This was passed unanimously.

Commissioners Lawrence Nickell, Charles Folz, and President Robert Reiners as well as Ripley County Attorney Neil Comer were in attendance. Minutes were recorded by Auditor Mary Ann McCoy. The next meeting will be held on December 17 at 8:00 a.m. at the Commissioners’ Conference Room in the Courthouse Annex.