Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Is MRRJ Investing In Better Health Services? Follow The Money

Middle River Regional Jail

Many of us hoped for a positive response to the Staunton News-Leader's editorial in August, 2015, calling for an independent investigation of the Middle River Regional Jail's medical and other practices. This was followed in December by Channel 29 airing a three-part series investigating the deaths of three inmates whose families allege medical neglect and malpractice.

To add to our hope, the local Daily News-Record recently cited an unsigned and undated report from MRRJ noting a number of positive changes being made in medical services in light of their inmate population having grown from around 350 in 2006 to a current 750.

Unfortunately, their budget numbers fail to support any such change. MRRJ's annual allocation for prescriptions, for example, ($25,000), is exactly the same for 2015-16 as for 2006-07, its first year of operation. Even more puzzling is the fact that in each of four departments (salaries, contracted health services, prescriptions, and medical supplies) they have underspent the money available in their budget by tens of thousands each year.

With the more than $1 million thus "saved" in the last decade, we taxpayers deserve to know what happened to the unspent funds. Why hasn't the budget for medical services doubled with the inmate population? Why has MRRJ's spending per inmate for healthcare consistently been only half of that of most other jails in the area?

Can our Community Criminal Justice Board (which hasn't met since it approved our buy-in of MRRJ over a year ago) help us find an answer? Can the Daily News-Record? Or members of our City Council and/or County Board of Supervisors? 

Someone needs to follow the money.

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