Commissioners tackle jail medical

December 10, 2015

jailbars01x300The Escambia County Board of Commissioners this morning discussed the rash of deaths in the county jail. Inweekly and this blog were brought up several times in the discussion.

County Administrator Jack Brown presented two alternatives to fix the medical care issues at the jail. Since November 2014, the county has had three suicides and three other deaths at the facility, which has been run by the county since October 1, 2013.

Eighty percent of the county and city jails across the country have no deaths during a year. The state of Florida averages annually 60 deaths in all its county jails.

The county commissioners discussed whether to contract out medical services or to hire medical doctor and keep the it in-house. Commissioner Wilson Robertson initially come out in favor of hire an company to run medical services, believing that such companies have the expertise and depth in staffing to handle the job better than the county.

However, the other commissioners felt differently. Commissioners Doug Underhill, Lumon May and Steven Barry wanted to keep it in-house, which is what Brown recommended. Barry argued that the best solution is some combination of the two alternatives.

Last Friday, Brown fired his Corrections Director Michael Tidwell. Assistant County Administrator Chip Simmons was put in charge of the corrections department and the jail until a new director is hired.

Simmons said that he has made significant changes. He has correctional and medical sides communicating with each other. The inmates will get the medical care they need. Simmons plans to make himself available to any citizens with family members in the jail.

Commissioner Robertson took exception to our articles on the jail deaths, saying that if they are true half the staff at the jail may need to be fired. He asked Simmons and Brown to fully investigate our stories, particularly the one regarding the family of Devon Averheart.

Both Brown and Simmons said that they didn’t doubt the veracity of the articles, but agreed to investigate. The article on Rodney Berry’s death is based on the ECSO reports. The Averheart article allowed the family to vent their frustrations.

I’ve got the full transcript of the discussion and will post it once the transcription is completed.

Related Articles:
* Exclusive: Family speaks out about jail death of Devon Averheart
* Jail Deaths Require Scrutiny

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