City DopeNews

Commission Approves Jail Health Care Provider

Inside the Athens-Clarke County Jail before it opened in 2014. Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

After the progressive group Athens for Everyone expressed concerns last month about inmate deaths in other cities while under the care of the company the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office wants to hire to provide health care at the county jail, commissioners pronounced themselves satisfied after Sheriff Ira Edwards and Chief Jailer Tommy York explained the program at the commission’s May 2 meeting.

The jail is seeing more mentally ill inmates since the state shut down the hospital in Milledgeville, Edwards said, and deputies are not doctors. It’s also hard to find medical professionals willing to work in corrections, so an outside contractor is needed because the sheriff’s office is obligated to treat inmates.

“These people come to us many times angry, impaired, with medical issues. We are mandated to take care of them until they leave,” said York (who is not the stereotypical heartless warden of Hollywood lore; he was a social worker in the jail for many years until Edwards tapped him to run it).

Almost 9,000 inmates come through the jail each year, and most receive a medical history screening; those who stay at least 14 days get a physical, too. At any given time, 100–150 inmates are on medication, and the medical staff deals with everything from diabetes to pregnancy to HIV/AIDS, York said.

The commission unanimously approved the $1.7 million contract with Armor Correctional Health Services.

“Obviously, we’re getting what we need to get for our money,” Commissioner Sharyn Dickerson said.