Fewer high-priced drugs are remedy for Lake jail budget

2012-07-24T19:20:00Z 2012-07-25T17:11:21Z Fewer high-priced drugs are remedy for Lake jail budgetBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Lake County Jail officials say they recently put a cap on skyrocketing prescription drugs for inmates.

Kenneth Ray, a consultant coordinating jail medical care for Sheriff John Buncich, said last week the jail's new medical vendor, Dr. William Forgey and his Correctional Health Indiana Inc. staff, have cut the jail's pharmaceutical costs in half since January when it topped $146,000 for that month alone.

"Inmate medication costs became a real budget-buster in late 2011. They now are what they were in early 2011 but with twice the medical staff, twice the mental health staff, more prescribers on staff, and more inmates provided assessment and care," Ray said.

The U.S. Department of Justice cited the jail three years ago for deficient care of inmates' medical and mental health issues and forced the county to pump millions of dollars into increased care for the more than 14,000 men and women who spend some time in the lockup each year.

More than 60 percent of all correctional inmates complain of some form of mental illness. Many are substance-abusers, according to a report by Ray and Dr. Ronald Shansky, a U.S. Department of Justice consultant, made public this weekend.

Lake officials are looking for savings after total spending for the jail is expected to jump by more than $6 million next year because of federal demands for more correctional officers.

The county paid an average of $708,000 a year between 2008 and 2010 for all medicines. That figure jumped to $850,000 in 2011 and threatened to continue climbing.

Although the jail population and medicines for nonmental ailments were unchanged last year, the demand for antidepressants doubled; antianxiety agents increased four-fold and antipsychotics jumped by a factor of 10 in 12 months.

Ray said jail officials placed new restrictions on prescriptions that reduced drug costs to $70,000 in May.

They included:

  •  Stopping prescribing medicines for inmates complaining only of routine trouble sleeping; inmates can buy over-the-counter drugs to aid in sleeping from the jail commissary
  • Substituting less expensive but equally effective drugs
  • Correcting a computer drug inventory program that was overstocking the jail's supplies

Councilman Mike Repay, D-Hammond, said Friday, "Dr. Forgey mentioned that what inmates are getting now in terms of pharmaceuticals is comparable to what they would get on the outside. It's not necessary for us to provide them with drugs most regular insurance companies wouldn't cover. That is great."

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