Butch McHaney, administrator of the Mississippi County Detention Center, advised Mississippi County commissioners that he will implement a medical co-pay policy for the jail's inmates.
Inmates will receive notification of the new policy today. It will go into effect in 30 days.
Once the policy is in effect, inmates will be charged a $10 co-pay to see a doctor or physician's assistant. The cost to see the jail's in-house registered nurse will be $5 and there will be a $3 charge to receive prescription drugs with no additional charge for second or additional prescriptions.
McHaney said the co-pay charges will not significantly offset the cost of providing the medical services but are intended to cut down on frivolous requests for services.
"It's not a money-making effort," he said. "It's just to control unnecessary requests."
McHaney said the policy "might sound heartless to some people," but inmates will not be denied services if they don't have money.
Inmates without money in their commissary account will still be billed, resulting in a negative balance which will be paid first if money is deposited into their account, he explained.
If the negative balance remains upon the inmate's release, the judge will be informed of the outstanding balance.
"There is a chance we might receive it," McHaney said.
He said most law-abiding citizens don't understand the "jailhouse mentality" that gives inmates the tendency to seek medical treatment they don't need or to hoard medications for use as currency or to take all at once for an intoxicating effect.
McHaney said he checked federal guidelines to confirm the policy is permissible and noted that Scott, Perry, Cape Girardeau and Ste. Genevieve counties all have a co-pay policy in place already.
Scott County implemented their co-pay policy in November 2005.
After implementing their co-pay policy on Feb. 1, 2003, Perry County reportedly saw a 50 percent decrease in medical requests, according to McHaney.
In other business Thursday:
* County Road 520, which connects state highways WW and A, is in dire need of repairs, according to county resident Ruben "Brother" Bennett and Milus Wallace of New Madrid County.
Wallace said about two of the road's three miles need repairs. He suggested it may be one of the county's most heavily-traveled roads. "Since the ferry opened we have a lot of traffic on that road," he said.
"That road's in bad shape from one end to the other," Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg agreed.
With no ferry signs leading traffic along that route, officials agreed the traffic is probably from locals traveling from the south.
Wallace said state workers told him the connecting state roads are scheduled to receive new asphalt caps. "It needs to be a state road," Wallace said of County Road 520.
Commissioner Martin Lucas said commissioners' efforts to get the state to take over the road were unsuccessful.
"It will tear up some equipment," Wallace said. "It's just really bad."
Commissioner Homer Oliver said the county spent about $20,000 on that road a few years back. Lucas said he thinks it was about five years ago.
Blumenberg said the county doesn't have enough money to address the whole problem so they will have to fix the worst spots, which he estimated is about a half-mile worth in three sections.
"We just need to look at it more closely," he said.
* A scale replica of the old 100-year old courthouse that was destroyed in a fire Feb. 10, 1997, is now on display in the courthouse foyer.
The model was built by Charlie Turner of Charleston, according to County Clerk Junior DeLay. DeLay said it took Turner two and a half months to build the replica, mostly from wood. He said small pieces of sandpaper were used for the roof shingles.
"It even has the old jail back there," Lucas noted.
"It is neat," Blumenberg agreed.
Turner also built a second replica for the Mississippi County Historical Society which the Society plans to put in a glass case, according to DeLay. "He wants to do the old City Hall next," he added.
Blumenberg said they should put the county's replica in a glass case.
"It's a real work of art," Oliver said.
* Commissioners reappointed Dick Brown to the county's Senate Bill 40 board.