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Legislators support transfer of jail medical services

Sheriff Joe Gerace

MAYVILLE — More robust medical treatment is coming to the Chautauqua County Jail.

Led by county officials, the transfer of jail medical services will move from the Sheriff’s Office to the Health and Human Services Department. The plan, which has the backing of Christine Schuyler, public health director, and Sheriff Joe Gerace, is geared to improve the health and well-being of inmates.

The move also looks to reduce recidivism in the jail, ensure state and federal requirements are met and reduce liability risks to the county.

“It’s a struggle to manage an area we’re not experts in,” Gerace told legislators. “It makes the most sense and I welcome the concept with open arms.”

County legislators on the Public Safety and Human Services committees approved to move $1.1 million in funds for jail medical services from the Sheriff’s Office to the Health and Human Services Department.

The jail will see the services of a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurses and a health aid. Per state requirements, jail health services must be staffed from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

Schuyler said the jail’s been used inappropriately as a medical center. Schuyler said they will ensure inmates receive the necessary medical treatment needed, such as connecting them with a primary care physician before they leave the jail.

“We’ve talked about the medical needs of the jail. There are a lot of chronically ill inmates,” Schuyler said. “They’re going back into the community. The healthier they are, the better.”

Gerace said the move could cut back on overtime hours within the jail. Those coming to the jail who are addicts are required to be on constant watch until they receive medical attention.

“We see very sick people,” Gerace said, adding that two inmates are currently receiving hospital care.

Providing medical services in the jail isn’t an option, Schuyler said. It’s mandated.

“We need to do it better to decrease the costs,” she said.

Human Services Chairman Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown, said the plan could improve the health of inmates and reduce the time they spend in jail.

“That affects the financial side of things in housing inmates. That’s a big deal,” he said.

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