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In a tough budget year, more being spent on inmate medical care

By JOLEEN FERRIS

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Oneida County Executive announced on Wednesday that job cuts were necessary in order to balance his 2010 budget proposal.

The Office for the Aging and Probation Department are among county departments that will suffer layoffs in Anthony Picente's budget proposal. However, the sheriff's department is about to start spending $50,000 more annually to provide enhanced medical care to its roughly 450 inmates at the Oneida County Jail.

The county currently does not provide 24-hour medical care at OCJ, though they will soon contract with an outside agency to provide constant care. While it is a cost-raising measure initially, Sheriff Robert Maciol says if you look at the entire picture, it is easy to spot substantial savings.

"Every time an inmate is transported out of here on those off-hours, when we don't have cost (coverage), we're paying for ambulance runs, we're paying for hospital stays, we're paying for two armed guards to be with an inmate at the hospital," Sheriff Maciol said. "So when this is all said and done, the savings will be very large for the county in the big picture."

In addition, Maciol points out that the cost of contracting with Correctional Medical Care, Inc. is based on 500 inmates. Maciol says the county will get rebates when it is below that number, which is usually the case.

Maciol says that, once the county starts contracting with an outside agency to provide medical care at the jail, the county is no longer liable in care-based lawsuits filed by inmates. The liability rests with the agency providing the care.

Maciol says the county is expected to begin contracting with CMC, Inc. the first of the year. The department itself will endure cuts, too. They've eliminated their long-standing work offender program under the county executive's 2012 budget proposal.

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