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Law changes cut medical costs for inmates at Lawrence County Jail

First the good news: Medical costs are on the decline at the Lawrence County Jail. Now the bad news: The van used to transport groups of prisoners is in need of replacement.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless told the Lawrence County Commission last week that a change in state law that governs medical care rates for prisoners has dramatically reduced his medical care costs.

The change stipulates that health care providers may only charge jails and prisons Medicare rates for services for inmates.

Lawless said medical care for prisoners for two months amounted to $24,735.

But his staff members negotiated with local health care providers as a result of the law change and were able to reduce that figure to $4,269 — a savings of more than $20,000.

Lawless also told the commission the van he uses to transport groups of prisoners to and from court and to state prisons is in dire need of replacement.

“It’s flat worn out,” Lawless said. “The suspension is bad, the engine is going. We’ve used it until we just can’t use it anymore.”

The van was an old ambulance that was once used by Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services and had 160,000 miles on it then. Now it has more than 300,000 miles.

Commission President Jason Stephens asked about the condition of the cruisers purchased last year.

Lawless said a prisoner recently kicked the window out of one of the cars. Prisoners are usually assessed the cost of such damage but if the prisoner is indigent, “It’s like getting blood out of a turnip,” Lawless said.