Tele-health in county jail goes to MHDS board

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Could the Jones County Jail eventually have tele-psychiatry services? That might be up to the Mental Health/Disability Services (MH/DS) of the East Central Region (ECR).

     Lucia Herman, Jones County Community Services director, brought the idea to the Jones County Supervisors during their Oct. 10 meeting. Sheriff Greg Graver was also present in the discussion.

     The project idea was brought to the board’s attention as a way to spend down MH funds for the county and region, as dictated by Senate File 504.

     Herman said Jones County is the only county in the nine-county member region that does not offer tele-psychiatry services to its inmates.

     With technology already in place within the jail, the total cost would be around $4,680. Herman advised not all inmates are in need of psychiatry services.

     At a cost of $170 an hour, Herman also pointed out that currently patients cannot get mental health services at that rate.

     She said tele-psychiatry would lower the risk of MH-related assaults, keep the inmates inside the jail as they receive professional help, reduce the number of restraints within the jail, reduce transport costs, eliminate the wait time for inmates to see a MH professional, help recognize those inmates with undiagnosed/untreated MH disorders, and provide immediate access to appropriate medications.

     “This would bring our jail up to the current century,” Herman said. “It’s a fairly low cost proposal.”

     Two additional options mentioned to help lower the regional fund balance were $45,000 and almost $300,000. She said the idea is for each county to come up with ideas that hopefully offer services that the county needs or is lacking.

     Graver said he first heard about tele-health in 2012, but the costs for such services then were astronomical.  He said at that time, the Clinton County Jail implemented tele-psychiatry, but because Jones County was lacking, Clinton County inmates could not be housed in Jones County.

     “You end up with a lot less problems in your jail,” Graver said of speaking to jails with similar services across Iowa.

     “It allows for immediate medication checks and consultations,” added Herman. “It’s an opportunity to use the MH funds to help Jones County citizens, which is the purpose of the funds.”

     With every other county in the MH/DS region already equipped for tele-psychiatry services, Supervisor Wayne Manternach said he felt the region should be supporting it in Jones County.

     “I’m not against it,” said Manternach, “but I think it goes to the regional board first.”

In other county business:

     • David Paine and Rose Rohr were present at the meeting to discuss building an addition onto the Paint ‘N Palette log cabin, located at Grant Wood Park.

     The county owns the property, and Paine, a member of Paint ‘N Palette, was seeking permission for the 15-by-20-foot addition. He explained the space would be used as a sculpture room. It would have a separate entrance from the main log cabin.

     Rohr said the Historic Preservation Commission approved the addition, pending the supervisors’ recommendation.

     Paine said members of Paint ‘N Palette would do a lot of the construction work themselves to save on costs, and cover any necessary costs as well. He said they would like to have the footings for the foundation in before this winter.

     The board did not object to the project.

     • Rohr also gave the board an update on Ely’s Stone Bridge near Monticello. The Commission secured a $5,000 engineering contract with VJ Engineering, as well as a $12,200 contract with Jerry Rogers for concrete curb work on the bridge. Rohr said either 6-inch or 4-inch curbing would be put in place, hopefully before the winter.

     “The engineer and field inspector plan to meet on site this week,” she said. She asked the county for assistance in removing the gates/barriers on the bridge to allow the contractor to work.

     The board inquired as to how the curbing would be paid for. Rohr said funds from donations and a recent fundraiser would go toward the project. “We couldn’t do anything until we had the funds,” she said of bids coming in back in June.

     • Michele Lubben, Land Use, informed the board about the Oct. 10 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. She said the only thing on the agenda was continued discussion on the county’s sign requirements.

     • The board approved the plans for removal of the Shaw Road Bridge over the Wapsipinicon River, as well as a notice to bidders for the project. Bids will be opened on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 10 a.m. The project has a June 1, 2018 completion date.

     Assistant County Engineer Todd Postel said there are no plans to close Lead Mine Road during this process.


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