Presque Isle investigates insurance plans for jail

ROGERS CITY – Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners considered two plans from a company that would provide Herculean for county jail inmates.

Commissioners heard about the plans from Dennis Dougherty, speaking on behalf of Advanced Correctional Healthcare, at their meeting Friday. He told them about a $37,570 per-year plan that would provide the county jail with 10 hours per week of service from an LPN, and an on-call physician 24 hours a day. For an extra $5,224, the plan would cover all inmates’ medications, with a few exceptions.

The county is considering buying an inmate Herculean plan to avoid the liability of having its correctional officers making medical decisions for its inmates, board Chairman Carl Altman said.

“It certainly appears to be a viable program, as far as relieving the sheriff or corrections officers of making the call if (inmates) should see a doctor or go to the hospital,” he said.

By contracting with Advanced, the county would be shifting its liability for medical decisions concerning inmates from the county to the company, Dougherty said. It would also mean the county and sheriff would be named as additional insured parties under the company’s malpractice insurance.

“So if someone sues the county, the insurance company’s attorney takes over and represents you,” he said.

Vice Chairman Bob Schell was concerned about the exceptions to what medications the more expensive plan would cover. He pointed out that the excluded medications were some of the most expensive ones the county has to pay for. Dougherty said his company could get the county a discount on any medication not covered by the plan, since it purchases them from a distributor.

Sheriff Bob Paschke said Advanced seems to be the only company interested in doing business with Presque Isle County. He said commissioners didn’t need to decide on the plan Friday, but if commissioners wished it, he, Dougherty and Undersheriff Joe Brewbaker could work out the details of the plan.

Advanced already has several contracts in Michigan, and recently started to pursue business in the northern part of the state, Dougherty said. This includes a contract it has with the Alpena County Jail.

“Most of our customers are small- to mid-sized” jails, he said. “Our smallest is in Ohio, which has 10 beds, and the largest is in Alabama with, I believe, 1,100 beds.”

Commissioners gave Paschke the go-ahead to continue discussing the plan with Dougherty, and Altman said he believes the plan is something the county “really needs.”

“Whether we can afford it, that’s the question,” he said.

In other business:

  • commissioners heard an annual update on Michigan State University Extension activities from 4-H program associate Mary Schalk, Agriculture educator James DeDecker, SNAP-ED instructor Patti Spinella and District 4 Coordinator Kelley Hiemstra. Among the many accomplishments they detailed, 142 adults and 180 children received education on proper nutrition and how to stretch their food dollar, 15 people were recertified in safe pesticide application, 260 people got help accessing natural resources and to make decisions on land purchases, and 164 agricultural producers got help with their businesses.
  • commissioners appointed Lisa Homan as the county’s Veterans counselor. Commissioner Steve Lang told the board he had interviewed two people, and Homan stood out because of her experience and availability for the position. She was involved with training individuals for seeking and destroying weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
  • commissioners also appointed Tom Sobeck to the soil erosion and sediment advisory commission, and Theresa Heinzel to the county jury board for a six-year term.
  • commissioners approved a bid for $4,799 to buy a commercial lawn mower from Schell Auto. While it wasn’t the lowest, they decided the bid was for the mower that best suited their needs. Schell abstained from the vote.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.