TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - More medical resources and staffing are coming to inmates in the Smith County main and north jails.
The Sheriff’s Office recently signed a new inmate health contract with Turn Key Health Clinics. It will cost $2.86 million per year. Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said they’re paying a little more but will save in other areas.
“We’ve cut down on the number of inmates that go to the emergency room which was a big deal, a big price tag,” he said. “And we’ve begun using Christus Trinity Mother Frances, where we pay at Medicare rates instead of the full price for inmates.”
Smith said Turn Key has been very responsive to any concerns that they have. The office has also added seven new positions between both facilities.
“We have more coverage. We have a full-time intake nurse, where the inmate comes in by law enforcement, into the jail, is booked in, they see the nurse right then, and they do their full medical questionnaire that they fill out and assess them at that time,” Smith said.
The jail also provides basic dental care, such as tooth pulling. In the past, they brought someone in but now will do it in-house. The inmates’ mental health is also something they deal with.
“Probably out of 1,067 inmates we have now, we probably have 150 of them that have some kind of mental deficiency that a lot of time causes them to be in the facility to start with,” Smith said. “And really where they need to be is to get help for their mental incapacity.”
Under the new contract, they’ve been able to add another psychiatrist and a doctor who works for Turn Key.
“He’s been surveying inmates as a doctor for over thirty-something years. Institutions are what he’s worked for the whole time and he’s been phenomenal so far in helping us in our jail facilities,” Smith said. “They have families just like we have and like I said, we have to make sure to keep them in good condition. Sometimes, they end up leaving better than what they came in.”
Smith said that any inmate who needs extra medical monitoring will be moved to the downtown facility. With this plan, there are no caps on pharmacy drugs. With the previous vendor, they went over the allotted amount, according to Smith.