Welcome aboard one more time as we bring you the latest news and views from the Pulaski County Missouri Sheriff’s office. It was a long and hot week for us last week and the new week does not appear to offer any promise of relief. It was also a busy week for us and it is time to write.
The big news of the week was the action by the Pulaski County Commission to approve my request for an inmate healthcare company to take over the medical problems of the jail. As you will recall in my last column, I jumped up on my soapbox and blasted away at our medical problems. For once, action was taken to solve the problem before my rant even made the newspapers. And a profound action it was indeed. The contract the Commission awarded to Advance Correctional Healthcare (ACH) will completely change the way we do business in the jail.
The change was long overdue and will bring many advantages to us. First and foremost, the inmates will be treated on site in the jail by a nurse/doctor team working together. The nurse will be in the jail 15 hours per week and the doctor will do a “house call” every second week. But best of all, both will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We will be given a set of written procedures to follow and if there is any doubt as to what we should do in the absence of the medical team then will call the medical team into action. Given time to get the program fully in place, our level of inmate care will equal that of the Miller and Phelps County jails which also have ACH as their health care providers.
Over the past four years, many relatives of our inmates have expressed their concerns to me over the quality of our medical care for the inmates. During the nighttime hours and on weekends and holidays our only choice was a trip to a hospital emergency room for an ailment that on the ER scale could be considered minor in nature. Thus, we were committed to long waits and many overtime hours for the staff. It is a well-known fact among the Missouri sheriff’s offices that many inmate escape attempts occur during medical transports and treatments. Thus, the ability to have the inmates treated in the jail is a safety-plus advantage for the deputy, the inmate and the public in general who could find themselves in the middle of an escape attempt.
The contract will also mean lower taxpayer costs for the treatment of inmates and their necessary drugs. As of June 30, we had spent just shy of $42,000 for inmate care this year out of a $55,000 budget item. Last year we spent $81,442 for medical care. In 2007 it was $52,556 and in 2006 it was $72,984. The contract for ACH calls for a yearly payment of just under $48,000.
In other news, the June dispatch totals revealed that we had 2,508 phone calls and 711 people at the front window. For July the totals were phone calls 2,349 and 757 people at the front window. I cannot give you the yearly totals at this time. Due to our personnel struggles in dispatch, we have fallen way behind and the totals have not been reported to me for some time now. I am not sure we can recover the information for the totals and with the emphasis that we need to place on our dispatch training efforts during our current crisis, I am not sure we should put any effort into the recovery of the data.
I had a reader ask for some basic facts about our agency. We cover 550 square miles of Pulaski County landmass. I cannot give you a figure for the total of road miles we have to travel. According to the local chamber of commerce the figure for population was right at 52,000 but they have a new survey out and I do not know what is has listed. The sheriff’s side of the operational budget gives us a total of $738,553 to enforce the law in Pulaski County. The remainder of our $1,384,428 budget goes to the jail operation. We currently have a total of 13 paid full time road deputies (I am included in the 13) to enforce the law. We try our best to have at least two deputies on duty at all times, but we frequently fall short because we just do not have the adequate manpower to cover this county. Thank God for our reserve force of deputies who have saved our bacon more times than I can count.
We serve about 1,900 criminal papers each year. We serve about 3,600 civil papers each year. We have a yearly average of about 62 inmates per day on our jail list. During the past four years we have had two deputies shot. I suspect we average three vehicle breakdowns per month. We have a total of 29 full and part time employees. Last year we had 10,593 calls for service. So far this year (as of Aug. 9) we have had 5,650 calls for service.
At this point I believe that I have made it through another column. I would like to remind everyone that the big yellow school busses will soon start to roll and excited kids will be running around, frequently right onto the roadway into your path of travel. We also have the scheduled one lane roadway that will start on Aug. 12 on Highway 17 between Crocker and Waynesville. So please drive with care and stay alert. We do not want to help load you or anyone else into an ambulance because of a traffic crash. The jail lights are on!