Nurses could be hired for new jail

The director of the Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District and other local officials are troubled by the practice of using trained corrections staffers to dispense medications to prisoners in the Kitsap County Jail.

Licensed medical professionals should be hired to distribute medications, according to health district Director Dr. Scott Lindquist.

“The whole system is going to require cleaning up,” Lindquist said. “We’re concerned this is a precedent that shouldn’t be set.”

Shoring up the system could cost the county an estimated $160,000. But the county commissioners are receptive to initial talks.

“We have to address (this) and take steps to cure it immediately,” County Commissioner Chris Endresen said.

The county adult and juvenile jails contract with the health district to provide basic medical care to inmates.

A licensed nurse dispenses medications at the Juvenile Detention Facility on weekdays, but no nurse is available during evenings or weekends. During those times, trained supervisors dipsense prepared packets.

At the county jail, licensed medical professionals prepare and manage prescription medications and other services, with corrections staffers dispensing them to prisoners.

Jail Superintendent Larry Bertholf says corrections officers follow a set of rigid dispensing guidelines — the prisoners’ identifications are confirmed and inmates sign for any dispensed medications, for instance.

The adult jail’s in-house clinic provides regular medical care and, if emergency medical attention is required during off hours, an ambulence can be called to the jail.

For $160,000, the county could hire additional nurses or other licensed professionals to dispense medications at the adult and juvenile jails during the required hours and shifts.

Bertholf is in favor of expanding the jail’s contract with the health district for those additional services.

He had planned to lobby for hiring additional medical personnel for the expanded and remodeled jail, set to by mid-2003.

“I wouldn’t expect the medical staff to break up fights between inmates,” Bertholf said. By the same token, correctional officers shouldn’t be asked to dispense medicine. “Getting more medical professionals would be a win-win situation.”

Bertholf says about 60 percent of the jail population takes prescription medication, while 80 percent require over-the-counter-medications. Trained corrections staffers make rounds three times a day to dispense medications at the jail.

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