County approves switching jail medical contract


Over the years, few costs associated with running county government have been more annoying to the Wright County Board of Commissioners than its responsibility to cover jail medical expenses for prisoners at the Wright County Jail. A single prisoner is capable of racking up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. At the Oct. 22 meeting of the county board, the commissioners approved a proposal to switch the county’s jail medical contract, which has a starting base cost of more than $200,000 a year.
Jail Administrator Pat O’Malley brought the proposal, which would switch the county’s jail medical contract from Allina to the Waite Park-based firm MEnD, to the board. O’Malley said the contract would, in the end, save the county thousands of dollars a year.
“Allina decided not to continue its contract with the county earlier this year,” O’Malley said. “As a result, we had to go looking for a new vendor for the contract. We believe the benefit we will get from MEnD will be favorable to the county and provide a strong level of service for less money.”
Under the current contract, Wright County paid a base contract of $240,457 for 2013 – an increase of 17 percent from the original contract signed in 2011. Under the new contract, the 2014 base cost will be $217,600 with a scheduled 2 percent increase in each of the final two years of the contract, which O’Malley said would provide the county with more budgeting stability than it had under the previous agreement.
“With the Allina contract, we knew there would be annual increases, but we wouldn’t find out until January just how much that would be,” O’Malley said. “With the new contract, we will have a fixed contract that we will know the amount of from one year to the next. Seeing as the current contract increased 17 percent over the last three years, the county will see a cost savings this year, as well as the remaining two years of the contract beyond 2014.”
MEnD has been providing jail medical services since 2008 and provides jail medical contracts for 11 Minnesota county jails. The board unanimously approved contracting with MEnD for the three-year term of the agreement.
More information appears in this week's Messenger.