Inmate health-care costs soar in Mesa County

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The cost of medical care for inmates in the Mesa County Jail is expected to soar by more than 40 percent this year.

The jail has budgeted nearly $1.4 million for health care in 2008 compared with the $982,000 it spent in 2007. County Administrator Jon Peacock blames the increase on inflation, higher medicine costs and more prisoners. He says officials are looking at ways to economize.

State law requires jails to provide a minimum level of health care. Mesa County Jail supervisor Steve Farlow says jail health care isn't lavish.

Sick call is twice a week, and inmates are required to pay eight dollars to see a doctor or dentist and five dollars to see a nurse. Prescription refills, lab work and x-rays are four dollars each. The county doesn't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions.

Mesa County contracts with Englewood based correctional health care management for inmate medical care. Farlow says when the contract comes up for renewal in 2010, the cost could rise another 30 to 50 percent.

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