The $1.7 Million Jail Bed

By Chris Roberts
|  Monday, Jun 27, 2011  |  Updated 2:37 PM PDT
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Plaxico Gets Out of Jail

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Taking care of the mentally ill is not a cheap propositions for prisons.

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San Mateo County is set to sign off on a contract with San Jose mental health specialists to care for its seriously-mentally ill jail inmates.

The cost? $1.7 million. This right after the county pulled $49 million out of its reserves and slashed other services by $27.3 million to balance its budget.

The expense is a no-bid contract to provide legally-required mental health services to jail inmates. The price per bed may seem exorbitant, but it's in line with what health care costs, according to a report in Bay Area News Group.

"We are obligated to take care of people who are in our jail -- that is a state law," said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom, who said the county is OK with a no-bid contract because providers of the necessary health care are few and far between.

A similar facility exists in San Francisco, but it is not interested in contracting with San Mateo County to provide services, the newspaper reported.

San Mateo's $1.7 million will pay for on-call services in Santa Clara County that include 24-hour guards and medical staff to handle inmates with major depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders, the newspaper reported. That money also pays for middle of the night court proceedings in which a judge can order a patient to take medication.

For one patient, the cost of the contract breaks down to $1,425 per day, for a total of $1.04 million over two years. But if the county needs another bed, the cost would be $1,500 per day, or $547,500 for a year. There is another roughly $74,400 in the contract for extra medical expenses, according to the news report.
 

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