Sometimes San Luis Valley law enforcement officers will wait to make an arrest until after the person has received medical care, according to local officials.
The reason they wait, according to the Valley Courier which reported the story last week, is because Medicaid will cover the medical costs. But once a person is arrested they lose most Medicaid benefits, and with a good number of inmates relying on Medicaid — more than 40 percent of the San Luis Valley’s population relies on the federal program — the tab is rapidly growing for local jails.
“We just really believe that that is an injustice,” Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis reportedly said during a meeting with aides from Sen. Cory Gardner’s office.
The Valley Courier continues on the situation the rural southern region of the state is facing:
“I’m aghast that we treat our mental health in jail by putting them in jail,” Rio Grande Hospital CEO Arlene Harms said. “I just think that’s awful.”
Medicaid does cover the cost if an inmate stays at a hospital for 24 hours or longer. However, that doesn’t take care of quick visits to the pharmacy, dentist, emergency or clinic, which are the majority of visits.
For example, Jackson said an inmate that Alamosa County housed out in Custer County due to lack of beds suffered from an apparent heart attack. Custer County was ill equipped to handle the situation so they flew the inmate to Pueblo. The issue turned out to be an anxiety attack and because the inmate was discharged in less than 24 hours Alamosa County was left with a $23,000 flight bill.
To make matters worse, hospitals aren’t reimbursed through the hospital provider fee when treating jail populations, according to the Valley Courier’s reporting.
The news outlet adds that one solution local governments are considering is better utilizing ankle monitoring programs, since that wouldn’t terminate medical care.
And as for help from Congress and Gardner?
The senator’s aides said they couldn’t make any promises, but the meeting was good insight into the problem several southern Colorado communities are facing.