Allen County Council gave Sheriff Ken Fries nearly all it had Thursday – and it still won't be nearly enough to cover jail inmates' medical expenses through the end of the year.
With about $1.1 million already spent, Fries had asked council for $400,000 while warning that another $400,000 might be needed to cover “skyrocketing” health-care costs among inmates. But council Thursday gave Fries only $100,000, which was nearly all the unbudgeted money left in its 2012 general fund.
The extra cash should pay medical bills through at least the end of the month, and council told Fries to look for money elsewhere in his budget to cover the rest.
But even that would be only a short-term solution, Fries said, because of a state law that requires counties to treat pre-existing medical conditions of people admitted to the jail. That may cause some people to purposefully have themselves arrested, Fries said, noting that an inmate recently attempted to delay sentencing for a month to continue treatment. Another inmate who had received an organ transplant had to be taken to the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis for treatment, he added.
Fries said he would prefer to fight the law in court – something he acknowledged would create legal bills but might cut annual medical expenses by $1 million.
Councilman Darren Vogt, however, said he would prefer to work with state legislators to change the law.
But even then, President Larry Brown noted, somebody would have to pay for the treatment, which hospitals cannot legally deny.
“Hospitals have better lobbyists than (sheriffs) do,” Fries said.
Councilman Paul Moss did not attend the meeting.