Jailhouse Healthcare: How Much is it Costing You?

By: Aaron Luna Email
By: Aaron Luna Email

Crime in the Grand Valley has the Mesa County Jail over maximum capacity. With many of those inmates requiring some degree of medical care. "The expense to treat people in jail is becoming more and more," says Capt. Farlow with the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.

Captain Steve Farlow a 23 year veteran of the sheriff's department says the cost can be hard to manage. "Its challenging, we are seeing a lot more older people coming into jail, a lot more diseases that are costly to treat."

Any inmate who enters the Mesa County Jail receives the same Quality of health care that you or I receive except they don't have a choice on who they go to.
"It's the bare necessity of treatment," says, Capt. Farlow. And for the bare necessities it's costing the county one and a half million dollars a year, up from last year.

"We try to be very conservative with tax payer money and adhere to the standards of the community at the same time," says Dee Yenter who works at the jail under Correctional Health Management.
Yenter says as far as medical treatment, they have their limits. "We don't provide any minor surgeries or anything like that. We do on site radiology, we do dental extractions, wound care, laboratory services."

One of the biggest challenges for Yenter and her staff is getting an inmate's complete medical picture. Yenter says, "a lot of times we don't have access to their medical records or they're poor historians or they are unable to give us that information."

One thing the medical staff won't treat is health problems inmates had before incarceration. Capt. Farlow says, "for instance if you come in as a female, pregnant and require medical care while you're in here and have to be sent out to the doctor you are responsible for that cost." The most common problem treated at the Mesa County Jail is withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. "Alcohol can be life threatening." says, Yenter.

So while the cost of medical treatment continues to rise, along with the number of inmates, Capt. Farlow says when it comes to cutting costs his hands are tied. "Once somebody is arrested and we take away their freedom we are responsible for their health and well being," says Farlow.
Leaving the citizens of Mesa County to pick up the check for inmates check ups.


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