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Medical Costs Rising at Santa Monica Jail

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

October 31, 2019 -- Medical costs at Santa Monica jail are "significantly" rising as more arrestees than expected need medical attention, according to police.

Police on Tuesday will ask the City Council to increase the three-year $500,000 contract with Vital Medical Services, LLC by $175,000 to boost the number of treatments the contractor provides.

The contract with Vital, which expires in February, allotted 600 treatments a year, or an average of 50 per month, police staff said.

The number of monthly treatments, however, averages 75, a 50 percent increase over the estimate that has resulted in $130,000 in additional bills.

Police said it is unclear if the increase is "due to an underestimate at the start of the initial contract when medical treatments were tracked differently, or due to an increase in medical issues in the arrestee population."

State and Federal law requires the police department to provide medical services to arrestees "known to have or declaring medical issues or injuries prior to their booking and housing in the SMPD jail," staff said.

It also requires the department to provide medical services to draw blood from those arrested for DUI or those under the influence of a controlled substance.

If a contractor does not provide the service, police officers must transport arrestees to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital’s Emergency Department "to obtain a pre-booking medical clearance, medical care, or blood draws."

The cost of the emergency room visit, including physician services and tests, must be paid by the Police Department, staff said.

Under the current agreement with Vital, "all medical services are administered by experienced, licensed medical personnel under the supervision of a licensed emergency care physician," staff said.

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