Supervisor Jim Irwin Jr. (left, in mask) speaks at the grand opening for the County Resource Center earlier this week.

CLINTON — The Eastern Iowa Mental Health region is looking to find a solution to improve inmate access to medications upon release from county jails.

As Clinton County was putting together the new County Resource Center, one of the big issues identified was trying to get individuals help with medication supply when they leave the jail, Clinton County Supervisor Jim Irwin Jr. said. One of the issues Clinton County sees is the Clinton County Jail medication prescriber is only available one day a week, typically on Tuesdays, Irwin said. If an individual comes to the jail on a Wednesday, they could possibly be released before being able to meet with the prescriber, he noted.

“We’re all learning that if we can try to get people the help that they need and get them in for therapy or for treatment, that pretty dire thing that they need to have is their prescription medication to be able to go for the treatments,” Irwin said.

Advanced Correctional Health Services currently contracts with Clinton, Muscatine and Cedar counties, Irwin noted. Advanced Correctional Health Services has reached out to Jackson County about doing contract work for Jackson County in its jail, Irwin added. Psych Associates currently works with the Scott County Jail, Region CEO Lori Elam said.

Muscatine County Supervisor Jeff Sorensen met with the county’s jail administration and sheriff to get their thoughts on the issue, he said. Back in February, individuals were released from jail with no medications in Muscatine County, Sorensen said. Muscatine County Director of Community Services Felicia Toppert asked if inmates could get three days’ worth of prescriptions so if they are released on a Friday night, they still have an opportunity to connect with services when they leave, Sorensen said. There are some concerns about too much medicine in the hands of individuals because they are powerful drugs and some individuals might have co-issues, Sorensen said. Sorensen believes supplying three days worth of medication has solved the issue in Muscatine County.

Clinton County is able to do three-day medication when inmates are leaving the jail, Irwin said. However, certain treatment facilities want individuals to have a 30-day supply of medications when they arrive, Irwin said.

Elam suggested the management team meet with a representative from Advanced Correctional Health Services and a representative from Psych Associates to talk through what issues there are and potentially figure out the best process to make sure individuals have access to medications if they want them. This could tie into part of the jail diversion programs that the Department of Human Services is wanting the region to have, Elam added.

“Utilizing care coordinators and then utilizing jail diversion, case managers or coordinators, whatever you want to call them, and then helping folks get on the meds and stay on the meds is really, really important. So I think this does warrant having some meetings set up but we’ve got to get ahold of ACH and the jail staff as well. Figure out who’s going to be a player at the table and then talk about what the issues are and maybe we can come to some sort of agreed process for all five counties.”

The Department of Corrections at Seventh Judicial District is having the same issue of individuals only being released with a few days worth of medications, Cedar County Supervisor Dawn Smith said. Smith stressed the importance of being tight with prescriptions to make sure the prescriptions are not shopped around. Having it run through the five counties would be helpful because it would be one system, Smith noted.

“I suppose if they had the money to get into a general prescriber, then maybe they could find a way to go around the system,” Smith said. “But if they want the handout, they’ll definitely have to go through the system. And then you always have that concern are they going to go ahead and sell them once they’re out to try and make money. But they’re only getting one month at a time so that’s all we can do.”

Tying the initiative into jail diversion will look good in DHS’s eyes, Elam believes. She said they will work on getting meetings set up and report back to the region governing board in a couple months.

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