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Butler sheriff hopes adding medical staff to prison will reduce OT

| Saturday, March 29, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely/file photo
File photo A medical staffer at the Butler County Prison dispenses medicine for an inmate Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Sheriff Michael Slupe hopes to increase the size of the medical staff so deputies can transport inmates who need medical treatment earlier in the day, reducing the overtime they collect for having to stay late or come in if they're on call.

The Butler County sheriff hopes that expanding the county prison's medical staff will cut down on costly overtime for transporting prisoners to medical facilities.

Last year, the sheriff's department spent more than $35,000 on overtime related to medical transports, Sheriff Michael Slupe said. That accounted for 60 to 70 percent of the total overtime cost.

“The issue is, can we reduce overtime by additional staff in the jail, by them being able to triage patients who need further medical attention earlier in the day?” Slupe said.

Slupe said that two deputies are now required to escort prisoners for medical visits at Butler Memorial Hospital. After 4:30 p.m. it's a four-hour overtime minimum for the deputies, some of whom are on call, Slupe said.

The county's prison board this month voted to pay Wexford Health Resources $130,000 through the end of the year to add a registered nurse five days a week and a licensed practical nurse seven days a week to the jail staff.

Other changes include adding two hours per week for one psychiatric nurse and one psychiatric doctor.

“Right now, we're struggling back there,” Warden Rick Shaffer said of the prison. Of the 375 inmates in the prison last week, 195 were on medication, meaning the medical staff spends lots of time dispensing, leaving them less time to deal with other medical issues.

“I've been saying for a while, I'm concerned that something's going to happen,” Shaffer said. He noted that a psychiatric doctor had just three hours on a Monday to see 45 prisoners.

The prison budgeted about $620,000 for prisoner health care for 2014, Shaffer said, which he hopes will be enough to cover the extra $130,000. He said he has $190,000 in a contingency fund for any cost overruns, or he could use a portion of the prisoner commissary fund.

County commissioners are expected to approve the additional spending at their Wednesday meeting, Shaffer said. At the end of the year, the warden added, the county can decide whether to keep using the additional staff.

The county also is looking at other ways to cut down on medical costs at the prison, including establishing a mental health court. Butler County President Judge Thomas Doerr said the mental health court will allow the county to better supervise inmates, reducing the chance they'll repeat their crimes.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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