Stephens County inmates to pay for own medicine

Stephens County_Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney says this year's changes for his department are designed save taxpayers money.  He says he has put a stop to county inmates being provided with free over-the-counter medicine and nurse visits, and inmates will pay for them.  He says he also is saving the taxpayers thousands of dollars by modifying the type of meals inmates once were eating.  Inmates will continue to get adequate nutrition, but it no longer will come in the form of a steak.

McKinney says inmates have taken advantage of their ability to get over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or cough medicine, and while inmates still will have access to the medicine, taxpayers no longer will pay.  Instead, he says, the inmate must pay.  "Our expenses were through the roof on supplying over the counter medications such as cold medications or aspirin," he said.  "It was to a point it needed to be more structured than what it was."

Inmates now will purchase their own medicine.  The medical staff will keep it and control the dosage.  Since the new policy has been in place, the requests for medication have dropped.  "It's been cut in half, and we still take care of the problem," he said.  "If there's an emergency in the jail - if we do have someone sick - we get them proper attention."

The other change is in the meals.  "We have to feed them, we're going to feed them, we're going to take care of them," he said.  "But, it is jail.  They're not going to eat T-bone steaks everyday or chicken fried steaks."  After consulting a nutritionist, McKinney says the kitchen made some meal adjustments, and since implementing the change, the county has saved more than $10,000 in only two months.  "We came under budget, still meeting the guidelines of the Departments of Health and Corrections, and still giving them three meals a day - good meals," he said.

McKinney also says inmates now are required to pay for nurse visits.  While it's only a five-dollar charge, he says it has significantly decreased claims of aching bellies and headaches.  The department still is working to decrease the cost of operation, and hopes that by cutting back on that it will be able to use the money it saves to increase the number of deputies and patrols.