Welcome aboard one more time as we attempt to take another trip around Pulaski County with the deputies of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. We have had a busy week. Right now I do not know where to start with the news and events of the week.
Our case number/calls for service count stands at 5,512 as of 3 pm on Aug. 1. We are still looking at a downward trend and we are still praying that the trend continues. I had intended to give a report in this column on the civil and criminal paper service for the first six months of 2009 as compared to the first six months of 2008, but it seems that I left the paper with the numbers at the office, so I will try for that next week.
We have had a serious rash of “jail disease” this week. It is astounding how many young people between the ages of 18 and 30 come to our jail and have “chest pains” or other major medical ailments that the folks in the emergency rooms just cannot seem to find and treat. Trip after trip we see this horrible medical situation unfold. And yes, we know that they are faking illness, but we have little choice but to take them to the hospital. We cannot afford to be found in a situation where we failed to provide medical care in the face of a “serious emergency.”
The bottom line is that the first time we refuse to take one to the hospital it will turn out that the inmate did have a serious problem. With our limited manpower we do not need this waste of time for bogus medical situations. What we need is an inmate healthcare company to move in and take over our jail. This would place the medical decisions into the hands of a doctor who has been trained in correctional healthcare, and the doctor would then determine which inmates were taken to the hospital. The bogus runs would cease and our time and taxpayer money would be more wisely spent. Most importantly, the medical decisions about an inmate’s health issues would be made by a doctor and not by untrained jail staff members.
It is somewhat discouraging that both Phelps and Miller Counties, each of which have large numbers of people on their jail staff, also have Advanced Correctional Healthcare as their medical company. Despite the fact they have more staff, they make fewer trips to the emergency room then we do, with only five jail staff members to run a 24/7/365 operation.
At this point, I am sure many of you are asking yourselves, “What set the sheriff off this week?” The answer is that we have really taken it on the chin of late. We had a 24-hour-a-day guard detail underway at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield for several days and that manpower drain was killing us. Then on Thursday afternoon, we had three more inmates transported to St. John’s in Lebanon for treatment. So around 5:30 p.m. this past Thursday, we had a total of four officers on guard duty at a hospital outside of the county.
This waste of manpower does not just affect us. I am embarrassed to say that several members of the emergency room staff in Lebanon asked me on Thursday what was going on in our jail to prompt such a rush of business. I must commend the emergency room staff, though, because they remained very professional and quickly ruled out the “major medical issues” that brought our inmates to them. They treated and released them as quickly as possible, but we had also clearly wasted a whole bunch of their time and resources.
This is a situation that we must act on and there must be a change in the way we do business. I have hopes for a change. At the Missouri Sheriff’s Association conference a few weeks ago, I met with representatives of Advanced Correctional Healthcare and once again invited them to join me in a presentation before the Pulaski County Commission. This will be the third or fourth time they have presented before the commission during my term in office and I hope things turn out better this time.
In other news, we were approved for a Missouri Highway and Transportation Department (MoDOT) highway safety grant to the tune of $12,486 to pay our deputies to work overtime traffic enforcement for the fiscal year of 2010. I have already sent out a news release on this so I do not want to completely rehash the release, but I would like to point out that when you stop large numbers of vehicles for traffic violations you will find a lot of other criminal activity from drugs and burglary to active warrants and stolen cars, so the benefit of the traffic grant goes well beyond mere traffic enforcement.
MoDOT personnel sent me a letter this week to tell us that the bridge construction on Highway 17 just north of Waynesville would soon reach a critical stage of construction. MoDOT plans to close off Lexington Road and reduce the traffic flow on Highway 17 to one lane traffic starting Aug. 12 and lasting until about Oct. 5. They will set up temporary traffic lights to handle the one-way traffic. When you consider the massive daily traffic count on Highway 17, I think everyone will understand when I say we are all going to have to think about traffic safety when we are driving near the new bridges.
I believe that I have managed to complete another column. I hope you enjoyed the news and my medical rant. Please drive with care and please keep your actions legal. We do not want you in the jail, but the lights are on.