Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) visited Fayette County on Monday and stopped to visit the county commissioners to discuss the new Fayette County Jail along with updates on various other topics.
Turner is the Congressman for the 10th District of Ohio, which includes most of Fayette County, all of Montgomery County and all of Greene County, according to commissioner Dan Dean.
Construction of the new jail began in June following the passage of a 1.9-mill levy on a May 7 special election. The new site is off Robinson Road and will house a law enforcement complex that includes the jail, administrative offices and an emergency call center.
Dean told Turner, “To the best of my knowledge it’s the first time a levy for a jail has passed in the state.”
Turner said, “Congratulations. That’s a significant communication project—to take a community to understand that there is a need and the willingness to do that.”
The USDA loan taken out for the jail was originally going to be set at 4 percent but it was decided to wait a month to close the loan. By waiting, an interest rate of 3.5 percent was gained.
Another topic covered was the local government hospital, Fayette County Memorial Hospital, and how it took over the county-wide EMS services approximately eight years ago. Dean explained the ambulance service was initially volunteer-run when it started in the 70’s and continued to be ran by volunteers until the services could no longer be financially supported.
Commissioners Tony Anderson and Dean explained the benefits of being one of the few counties to have a county-wide system to keep all the townships from having to figure out how to financially have their own systems in place.
“We were very thankful the hospital maintained it for us,” said Dean. “The hospital is penalized by Medicare for the cost of allowances because the ambulance service is not critical access. So any portion of the funds for the hospital that gets spent on that gets disallowed in the cost report.”
Critical Access Hospitals are those in rural areas with no other hospitals within a certain distance. The purpose of the critical access is to provide emergency care and there are certain policies and procedures that must be followed. Small hospitals can be licensed as critical care hospitals under The Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program which was created by Congress in 1997.
According to Dean, the funds that are lost for the hospital by providing EMS services which aren’t part of the critical access program are approximately $250,000 to $300,000 per year.
They explained to Turner that the county did pass an EMS levy to help reimburse the hospital for their loss to keep the service, however Dean said, “basically you’re asking taxpayers and the county itself to fund the government because of that penalty.”
The topic of individuals losing Medicaid upon entering jail was also brought up as the county must pay the bills while the person is locked up. Once the person is released, Dean explained they must wait at least a month before they can typically get covered again, which disrupts care or treatment they are in the process of receiving.
As opioid addiction is a major concern right now, Dean pointed out that with treatment plans coming with the new Fayette County Jail, there is concern over treatment being able to continue once individuals have left the jail.
In summary, Turner explained that topic is being addressed. He said, “What they’ve recently just proposed is that rather than making it the entire time period in order to try to limit the scoring costs that they would say ‘90 days prior to release that the benefits would come back.’”
Essentially, jails like the Fayette County Jail won’t have persons locked up for much longer than 90 days so “that was a pretty good compromise because most of the places we’ve been advocating that can cover most of the time period,” according to Turner.
This would also have a continuity of care so the care wouldn’t lapse.
Follow the Record-Herald for more information regarding the meeting between the Commissioners and Congressman Turner.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.