County OKs ankle-monitor, transport plans

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 11/19/19

Two resolutions related to law enforcement were approved Monday, with little discussion by the Bradley County Commission.

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County OKs ankle-monitor, transport plans

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Two resolutions related to law enforcement were approved Monday, with little discussion by the Bradley County Commission.

However, both the ankle monitoring services for misdemeanor offenders and the cost to the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office for mental health transports have been previously discussed at length.

Commissioners authorized Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis to negotiate and enter into a lease agreement with Buddi Company to provide ankle-monitoring services to Bradley County.

Commissioners heard from Kyle Chapin, a Buddi representative, last week during their work session.

"We are very, very experienced with what we do," Chapin said, adding the company’s services are offered in 28 states and Guam, and 15 countries. In addition, the company has a Tennessee state contract. "We understand some of the issues you're going to experience.”

In a memo, Davis introduced the proposal to take the monitoring "in-house.”

“We propose beginning in January 2020 to charge offenders $7.80 per day (which is less than the private company is charging today),” the memo stated. "By working with the judges, we believe we can average 24 people per day."

Davis noted $4 of the $7.80 charge, multiplied by 24 people over the course of 180 days (January to June 2020) will bring in $17,280.

"This would cover our match with the state for indigent offenders," Davis said, noting 80% would ensure $13,824.

"We also propose drug testing instead of drug patches," Davis stated in the memo. "All of this would be done by the Probation Department."

Davis said the offender will be paying less to Bradley County than he or she would to the private company. He used the figure of 24 offenders for budgeting purpose to pay for indigent offenders using the monitors; the number could be more or could be less.

Last week, Davis acknowledged the cost to offenders would be $7.86 per day "which is still tremendously less" than the $10 per day they have been paying.

There was no additional discussion about ankle monitoring during Monday’s meeting.

Commissioners also authorized Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson to negotiate and enter into a letter of agreement designating Amerimed Emergency Medical Services as a secondary transportation agency to provide ambulance transport of involuntary and voluntary psychiatric patients.

In 2018, it cost Bradley County more than $130,000 to transport people in need of mental health services, with the cost paid from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office budget.

Commissioners heard last week a proposal that would save the county money, while shifting mental health transports to a company already working with law enforcement agencies in Hamilton and Shelby counties.

"We bill insurance so it does not cost the county anything," said Tracy Day with Amerimed EMS.

Day noted even if the person has no insurance, they are still transported and the company's account for indigent patients covers the cost. Day said the company has not come anywhere near the limit on the indigent account in other Tennessee counties it serves: Hamilton (Chattanooga) and Shelby (Memphis).

According to a letter of agreement to be signed by both Lawson and Joseph J. Chiarella, Amerimed’s operations manager in Tennessee and Mississippi, the agreement would be in effect beginning on Dec. 1, 2019, and ending on Feb. 28, 2021, unless terminated sooner by either party. The letter of agreement may be terminated at any time upon 30 days prior written notice.

“Amerimed agrees to provide ambulance transport services for mental health patients only when requested by the sheriff within Bradley County for voluntary and involuntary psychiatric patients pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 33-6-901,” the letter stated.

Under that statute, the sheriff is authorized to designate a secondary transportation agent or agents for the county “for persons with mental illness or serious emotional disturbance whom a physician or mandatory prescreening authority has evaluated and determined do require physical restraint or vehicle security.”

“As a designated secondary transportation agent for (Bradley) County, Amerimed shall be available twenty-four (24) hours per day, provide adequately for the safety and security of the person to be transported, and provide appropriate medical conditions for transporting persons for involuntary hospitalization,” the letter stated.

Amerimed EMS is a licensed ambulance provider for the state of Tennessee, the letter noted. For the agreement to remain in place, Amerimed EMS must remain licensed and in good standing with the state and Bradley County.

“Amerimed EMS will be available to transport all psychiatric patients that sheriff’s deputies would have to transport as authorized by Tennessee Code Annotated § 33-6-901,” the letter continued.

In addition, Amerimed EMS will:

• Establish contracts with the medical facilities they are transporting their patients to and from;

• Bill private insurance companies for those patients who are covered by insurance; and

• Work with facilities whose patients do not have insurance.

“At no time will the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office or the Bradley County government be responsible or liable for any charges or payments incurred as the result of any transportations,” the letter stated. “Medical facilities will directly contact the Sheriff’s Office and the Sheriff’ Office will contact Amerimed for mental health transports.”

The letter notes Amerimed EMS “agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Bradley County and the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, the Bradley County Sheriff, its officers, directors, employees, agents and assigns against any losses, liabilities, damages, costs and expenses (including attorney fees) arising out of actions performed under this agreement.”

There was no additional discussion about mental health transports during Monday’s meeting.

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