Local jail official looks to expand health services for inmates in anticipation of Monterey County lawsuit | TheUnion.com

Local jail official looks to expand health services for inmates in anticipation of Monterey County lawsuit

The Union photo/John Hart
John R. Hart | The Union

For Nevada County Sheriff’s Capt. Paul Schmidt, it’s not if the county’s jail will need more money to cover expanded health costs. It’s when.

A lawsuit against Monterey County has Schmidt crunching financial numbers. He expects the suit, which alleges problems at the Central Coast county jail, will cause ripples throughout the state.

A round-the-clock nurse, more dental care and expanded mental health treatment all are a possibility for the Nevada County Jail.

That means the local jail — called the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility — will need more money in its budget, Schmidt said.

The cost of providing the additional medical services is unknown. However, Schmidt also said he’d need another five or six correctional officers on staff because of the expanded health care. That’s another $450,000 to $540,000 in addition to the unknown cost of more medical services.

“What I’m trying to do is come up with an action plan that addresses that,” he added.

The Monterey County lawsuit alleged problems with medical, dental and mental health care at that county’s jail.

Schmidt said he fears any settlement in that suit could lead to legal action in other counties that don’t provide the same level of care.

That’s why he wants to provide the heightened care sooner rather than later.

The issue has been on Schmidt’s mind for months. In fact, it led the county to only extend its contract with California Forensic Medical Group, which provides medical services to the jail, by a year instead of renegotiating the deal.

That year extension ends June 30.

Officials want to see the results of the Monterey County lawsuit before determining precisely what should be in a new contract with CFMG, Schmidt said.

“I have no idea how much it’s going to cost,” he added. “I know it’s going to cost more.”

Ed Scofield, chairman of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, said the issue hasn’t yet reached the board. However, he’s concerned about any additional cost, noting the jail wasn’t intended as a long-term housing facility.

“We would be looking at the state first,” he said of securing additional funds.

The board would then examine its own general fund, if the state provided no money, Scofield added.

Specifics remain unknown, though Schmidt anticipates the changes would mean a nurse is available 24/7, that basic dental maintenance and extractions would include cleanings, and help for the mentally ill would increase to 40 hours a week.

The local jail already has a nurse on staff, some dental services and mental health treatment.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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