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Prescription for trouble? Beltrami County Jail adds more med techs

BEMIDJI — The inmate population is above average at the Beltrami County Jail this year. More bodies require more hours dedicated to watch over and care for prisoners.

“We’re dealing with a lot more inmates and we haven’t added new staff,” said Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp.

In order to satisfy the health care needs of inmates, corrections officers have been assisting with medication distribution — a duty outside the usual scope of their work. The undertaking adds an additional three hours per shift per corrections officer.

Within the past week, corrections officers exposed three incidents of prisoners “cheeking” medication, that is, pretending to swallow the pills but keeping the medication between their cheek and gums. There was also one instance where an anxiety medication was passed to the wrong inmate. Hodapp said the error was quickly caught and no harm was done to anyone in custody at the Beltrami County Jail.

“Med errors happen when people are over tasked,” explained Jail Administrator Cindy Borowski.

Prior to the liability issues that arose recently, the sheriff’s office was planning to add more medical technicians to accommodate the 120 to 130 fluctuating inmate population. Hodapp said the average number of inmates was 112. The 172 bed facility is licensed by the Department of Corrections to house up to 140.

The jail contracts for medical services with MEnD Correctional Care. Beltrami County Commissioners approved the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office’s request to increase the number of health technicians provided by MEnD Correctional Care. The cost, covered by the sheriff’s office budget, is approximately $14,767 for November and December.

In 2014, the jail has budgeted for an additional 97 hours per week of technician time. Through the end of 2013, MEnD services will be raised to that level as well.

“We decided to push it through earlier,” Hodapp said. 

Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
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