By Lyndsie Ferrell
DEL NORTE— Rio Grande County Commissioners met with two Saguache County Commissioners last Wednesday, July 25 to discuss a draft intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that would allow for the counties to jointly hire a nurse for the two jails. Rio Grande County has been working with an Alamosa doctor who began a similar program. Their hope is to share the financial portion of the program with Saguache.
Both boards met in the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s office to discuss details pertaining to the IGA and spoke about how the program would work once the agreement was finished. “We want this to remain a live document so that we can adjust and make changes as we need to,” said Rio Grande County Commissioner Suzanne Bothell. Bothell helped lead planning for the program, bringing it to the attention of the board last spring.
In the draft agreement, it states that Saguache’s portion of the salary for the nurse, who would be sub-contracted out to Rio Grande County under the licensing of Physician Patrick Thompson, would cap out at no more than 20 percent. “I think considering that we may need the nurse more during certain times that we should change the 20 percent cap to 25 percent, to allow for some wiggle room,” stated Saguache County Commissioner Jason Anderson.
In the proposal, Saguache County would have the nurse visit the jail two days a week, for only a half day, utilizing roughly one fifth of the eight-hour schedule. The nurse has been contracted to visit the jail and check inmates for any sicknesses, administer prescription medications and monitor the overall health of the inmates. The nurse would be hired on as a Rio Grande County employee.
Within the last two years, several inmates have either fallen ill or died due to mental or physical illnesses that were not detected by jail officials. Rio Grande County Commissioners responded to the incidences by preparing a plan to hire a nurse practitioner in order to help prevent any further issues from occurring. “Even with a full jail, we have figured that an eight-hour work week would be sufficient for her to be able to see all of the patients in both counties and allow for travel time,” said Bothell.
Another topic that was discussed included which county would supply transportation for the nurse once the agreement was in place. “When the sheriff, Dan Warwick, and I discussed transportation, we decided we would offer our Durango to the nurse and pay for mileage. She would have to house the vehicle at the Rio Grande Sheriff’s Department, but we would pay her mileage starting from Monte Vista where she resides,” said Saguache County Sheriff Captain Ken Wilson.
Commissioners also decided that they would have to contact CTSI, their insurance carrier, to find out who would be responsible for the nurse while she was at the Saguache Jail, stating that though she is covered under the contracting physician as well as under Rio Grande County as an employee, she may not be covered while administering her services in Saguache.
“I think once we have had some time to figure out these last details, we will have a decent living document that we can work with,” said Rio Grande Commissioner Gene Glover. The two boards agreed and decided to take the draft agreement to the county lawyers for review and reconvene during their August meetings, which will take place mid-month.