Ravalli Co. explores hiring own jail medical staff


HAMILTON, Mont. - The Ravalli County sheriff and detention offices are working to provide their own in-house medical care for jail inmates.

Sheriff Steve Holton and Detention Lt. Scott Leete met with commissioners Wednesday to pitch their proposal.

The medical vendor the jail has used for years is not renewing its contract.

The county has until June 30 to come up with a plan to provide in-house medical care for the 80-bed unit.

As many as 45 to 50 inmates are in the detention center at any given time.

The sheriff's office and detention center have been working for months to try to attract a new vendor. But they have had no luck.

They say a nationwide nursing shortage is part of the hurdle in obtaining nurses for the facility.

So their proposal is for the county to hire its own nurse practitioner, a couple registered nurses and a licensed practical nurse.

"We have a responsibility, and it's the right thing to do to provide medical service to our inmates," said Holton. "Our charge there is safety and security for the county, the residents and the inmates in our facility."

Holton said hiring staff would save money by reducing emergency room visits.

He said early low estimates would cost about $300,000. But Commissioner Jeff Burrows estimates it could cost as much as $500,000.

The board told the sheriff and detention lieutenant to continue developing the proposal.

Commissioners will meet on the matter again March 15.