BISBEE — While mandated to provide health care to inmates at the Cochise County jail, Health Department Director Vaira Harik says there may not be enough in the allotted budget to cover expenses incurred for seriously ill prisoners.
“We have had four acute medical care cases this year. One had to be transported via helicopter to Tucson at a cost of $13,000. We will need to address this in upcoming budget talks,” Harik said.
Care for inmates covers medical care and transport, hospitalization, prescriptions, X-rays, lab work, physician care and dental care.
Harik also pointed out that many inmates suffer meth mouth, a condition associated with methamphetamine use that causes premature decaying of teeth. Dental care is provided when the condition warrants attention.
There are businesses that offer health care insurance for inmates that come with a hefty price tag of $1 million to $1.5 million, she said.
“This issue has caused me some concern,” County Administrator Mike Ortega said. “The reality is that we have to decide as a staff how much longer can we afford to do this. We will need to dissect the impact that will come if we fund this out of operations.”
Some inmates can be signed up for the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment Systems Program that saves the county two-thirds of the cost of medical care for inmates hospitalized for more than 24 hours. Some inmates are already signed up for the indigent care program when they are incarcerated.
The supervisors unanimously approved a contract with the only bidder on providing inmate hospital care, the Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, for a cost of $186,000 for the year. Harik said that price represents a 5 percent reduction from last year’s contract.
The supervisors also adopted a resolution establishing a half-mile section of San Carlos Avenue as a declared county highway as requested by residents.
Patricia Morris, acting director of the county Highway and Floodplain Department, said the residents entered into an agreement with the county under the public-partnership program.
Resurfacing will cost around $84,000, and the residents have paid their share of $11,733.
The stretch of road is to be resurfaced with chip seal and drainage culverts to shift rain water from the road to a ditch.
“This entire area in Sierra Vista Estates has been very active in assuring that the emergency staff and school buses can safely traverse the roads,” Supervisor Pat Call said. “My congratulations to the community.”
Morris also said the county would be receiving new floodplain maps. The department’s current (Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain maps are from 1984.
There will be a problem, though, for certain residents living near Interstate 10 and certain railroad crossings. Morris said FEMA has designated I-10 and several former railroad track sites as levees and is designating certain areas as floodplains.
“FEMA is requiring that these structures are built at least 3 feet above the 100-year flood stage,” Morris said.
Just how to raise the length of I-10 across the county that 3 feet has yet to be determined.
The supervisors have decided they need to get with state and federal legislators to do something about the problems that will be encountered to meet FEMA’s new regulations.
In other business
In other business the Cochise County Board of Supervisors:
• Approved the donation of 75 VHF radios and 30 UHF radios that are non-working to the Cochise County Radio Amateurs Civil Emergency Service.
• Accepted the resignation of Sunsites-Pearce Fire District Secretary/Treasurer James H. Paterson and approved the appointment of Laura McGaffey to the position to serve until Nov. 30, 2008.
• Appointed the following as Republican precinct committee-persons: J.M. McKenzie, Leslie Thompson, Shirley Thompson, Jackie Collins, Betty Senesac, Wayne Orr, Royce Kentich, Russell Anderson, Rosemary Mackey, Gene Bodeen, Gregory Chizewsky, James Simmons, Ron Kline, Jessica Kline, Larry Struck, Lois Struck, Lelora Fox, Gregory Wenzell, Shelly Cloud, Vernette O’Brien, Thomas Featherston, Deborah Morris, Kathleen Jones, Patricia Grymko, Charles Lesley and William Waynick.
• Approved the appointment of Mary Dobers and Patricia Pinson as directors of the Cochise County Pollution Control Corporation for a term ending Feb. 1, 2014.