FARMINGTON – County commissioners sat down with representatives of Allied Resources for Correctional Health Inc. and of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department today, in an emergency meeting held to find a solution for the jail’s lack of a medical service provider.
Franklin Community Health Network will provide medical services to inmates in the interim, until a contract can be agreed upon by the county and a bidding company.
At left: Franklin County Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon and Chairman Meldon Gilmore of Freeman.
For the past couple months, commissioners have been grappling with how to provide medical services to inmates at the Franklin County Jail, after ARCH indicated that it wished to terminate its three-year, $81,750 contract. That contract was set to expire at the end of this year. ARCH originally indicated that it wished to leave at the end of July, later it was agreed that contractually the company had to stay on until the end of September.
Meanwhile, commissioners put the contract back out to bid. However, they received no replies when the bids were opened on Sept. 23. That day, Jail Administrator Sandra Collins drafted a letter to ARCH, asking them to stay on until a provider could be found. ARCH was offered an additional 8 percent for the extra time, as outlined in the contract.
ARCH then sent a letter to representatives of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department on Sept. 25, informing them that the Board of Directors had met and that the company intended to stop work after Sept. 28, at midnight.
That letter was first seen, jail representatives say, when Collins happened to go in to work on Sunday and looked through Saturday’s mail. ARCH said that the letter was also sent to Sheriff Dennis Pike, who said he had yet to see it.
The commissioners convened a meeting Monday, after being informed of the situation by Collins, but were informed that an ARCH representative was not available. Instead, they met the today at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, the jail is without a medical service provider. Collins said that she was administering medication to “seven or eight” inmates by having them come into the health clinic area and “self administer” the medications while in her presence and the presence of a corrections officer. So far there has been only one glitch, but Collins noted that it highlighted the need for a provider.
“An inmate who was receiving medication in the AM and the PM, got only his morning medication,” Collins said. “We couldn’t find his evening medication anywhere. [The medication] was for a bipolar disorder, which isn’t a good one to miss.”
“We are required by statutes,” Pike agreed, “to provide medical services to our guests.”
ARCH Vice-President and and Treasurer Edward Slant and Alfred Cichon, PA-C, for their part, said that the timing of communications between their company and the county had been unfortunate. Slant said that his company hadn’t received word that ARCH would be needed past Sept. 28, until Sept 23.
“That only gave us five days,” Slant said, “four with the mail. That didn’t give us long to get everyone together.”
Pike and Collins countered that the bids could legally not be opened until Sept. 23, at the commissioner meeting, and ARCH was told as soon as possible by Collins.
Cichon asked at one point that the commissioners enter into an executive session with ARCH representatives. He said that disagreements between his company and the county had been represented in the media to be about nothing but money, which he said was not accurate.
“I have a sense that there may be an understanding of our position that is not in line with our intentions,” Cichon said. He later said that he “was not happy with the way this was displayed.”
Franklin County Clerk Julie Magoon said that, after consulting with the county’s attorney, “we’re treading on dangerous ground.” Executive sessions, she noted, had to be called for very specific reasons.
Pike has said that company representatives had told him that ARCH was losing money through their Franklin County Jail contract. ARCH says that other issues, at the jail itself, led to the contract’s termination.
“There have been things that have occurred over time,” Cichon said, “which we brought to people’s attention, and asked to be addressed, that were not in any meaningful way.”
“I don’t see any point in discussing why we’re here,” Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon said. He noted that it was clear that ARCH wanted to terminate the contract, and another provider was needed in the interim.
Hardy moved and was seconded by Commissioner Chairman Meldon Gilmore of Freeman Township, that Pike “engage Franklin Memorial Hospital to provide service at the jail, in the interim.”
FCHN will oversee a pair of self-employed, on-scene specialists which were formally contracted by ARCH to distribute medicine and the like, under the supervision of a registered nurse. According to Pike, a FCHN physician will make two visits to the jail a week. If necessary, inmates can be transported to the hospital for emergency care, as they were with ARCH.
Pike anticipates a new contract by mid-November. That contract would be put out to bid, with FCHN, ARCH or any other company able to reply.