Ravalli Co. jail to hire its own nursing staff

By Kevin Maki of NBC Montana | September 28th 2017

HAMILTON, Mont. - After almost a year of uncertainty the Ravalli County detention facility may have a solution to providing in-house medical care to jail inmates.

The board of commissioners approved a proposal for the county to hire its own nursing staff.

The vendor the county was using stopped providing services in June.

A local provider, Sapphire Community Health, stepped up to provide care in the interim. But its contract runs out Sept. 30.

No outside vendors have applied for the highly specialized medical service.

Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton said the county expects to spend about $400,000 a year on its own local program. But Holton said it's more than $100,000 less than it expected to pay.

"This will be a staff that are Ravalli County employees," he said, "and a staff that we can manage. We won't have to worry in a year or six months with somebody saying they're not going to renew their contract and starting this over."

Holton said without in-house medical services jail inmates would have to be transported to local clinics or the emergency room, which he said is hugely expensive and can pose dangerous situations.

Holton said a full-time nurse practitioner, who can prescribe medications and up to three registered nurses, would be hired.

He said the county is collecting applications and hopes to be on board with the service by Oct. 1.