By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — District 3 Cleveland County Commissioner Rusty Sullivan returned from Washington, D.C., this week. He serves on the steering committee for Justice and Public Safety.
“One of the main reasons for going up there is the new national health bill says you must be insured,” Sullivan said.
That could be to the county’s advantage. When prisoners are incarcerated in the county jail, the county is responsible for any health care that isn’t billed out to Medicaid or insurance.
“Criminals are the only sector in the United States that we must provide health care for,” Sullivan said.
Those costs can be high. The criminal population doesn’t tend to be the healthiest demographic in the nation. Getting health care paid for through the new health system could relieve the financial burden on counties.
But Oklahoma’s rejection of the system has put a glitch in the works. In addition, detention facilities will have to figure out how to bill health insurance for inmate costs.
“I personally think it should be part of the book-in system,” Sullivan said. “That’s one of the things I’m working on right now.”
The county can file for medical treatment and medicine reimbursements, but Sullivan said because Oklahoma opted out of the federal plan, counties need guidance from the state insurance commissioner on how to proceed.
Sullivan said meetings in Washington also included information and discussion on recidivism, re-entry and pretrial release.
“These are all things that will lessen the county’s burden of cost,” he said.
Another primary topic of discussion centered around mental illness.
Sullivan said he learned at the conference that more than two million people in prison are mentally ill. An estimated 10 million are booked into jails.
“Jails have become dumping grounds for the mentally ill,” he said.
As many as 24 percent of those incarcerated are believed to be mentally ill or have symptoms of mental illness. Those people need community-based services that are more compatible than incarceration is to address their issues.
“Roughly one in four of those in our jail have some form of mental illness,” Sullivan said.
Detainees transitioning from the juvenile system to the adult system was another area of discussion.
“Now it’s a different set of rules,” Sullivan said. “Now they’re in big-boy jail.”
Sullivan said his trip was educational and valuable for understanding some of the challenges the county faces.
“I’m trying to make Cleveland County a better place, to be as good a steward as I can with Cleveland County’s money,” he said.
Undersheriff Rhett Burnett reported this week that 402 prisoners were at the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center. Of those, 106 are Department of Corrections prisoners, with 91 already having received judgment and sentencing, making the state financially responsible for their care.
Work on the county courthouse’s south parking lot started last Friday. First Baptist Church is allowing county staff to use some of the church’s parking.
“I’d like to express my thanks to First Baptist,” Commissioner Darry Stacy said.
In other county business, county commissioners approved the following blanket purchase orders:
· District No. 1 Warehouse: Palace Auto Supply $3,500, Bills Welding Equipment Repair $800, AT&T Mobility $200
· District No. 2 Warehouse: Bruckner’s Truck Sales Inc. $2,000, Fred’s Tire & Battery $2,000, Farm Plan Inc. — Atwoods $1,000, UniFirst $1,500, P&K Equipment $1,000
· District No. 3 Warehouse: American Logo & Sing Inc. $750, Alfred and Coy A. Keese, DBA Wanette Tractor and Supply $1,500, Perfection Equipment Co. $1,000.
· Cleveland County Health Department: Misty Clouse $50, Eureka Water Co. $167.
· OSU Extension Center: Copelin’s Office Center $1,500.
· Sheriff’s Office: Pitney Bowes $143, Palace Auto Supply $1,000.
Commissioners also approved the following purchase orders: General Fund $782,403, Highway Fund $142,546, Health Fund $128,635, Sheriff Service Fee Fund $1,970, Sheriff Commissary Fund $4,301, Sheriff Jail Fund $55, Sheriff Revolving Fund $5,983, Sheriff Criminal Alien Assist Grant $1,732, Treasurer Sales Tax Fund $760, 973, County Clerk Preservation Fund $14,962, Assessor Revolving Fund $5,293 and Fair Board Fund $4,521.
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