According to state law, local governments are responsible for paying for in-patient mental evaluations ordered by a judge.
“The county is required to pay for up to 30 days,” Bradley County finance director Lynn Burns said.
Committee member Mel Griffith said it was evident the county was responsible for the first invoice, but there was a question about whether the second invoice would have to be paid because the time period would be more than 30 days for the same person.
The county received a bill from Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute for in-patient services for a misdemeanor defendant who received services from June 12 to July 11, and again from July 28 to Aug. 13.
Two different courts required the evaluations. The company issued two separate invoices to the county totaling $23,850.
“I appreciate our judicial system and due process, but it’s kind of amazing that a misdemeanor results in this level of care to make someone (able) to stand confident trial when I think misdemeanor defenses never come close to this kind of judgment,” said Commissioner J. Adam Lowe.
Lowe made a motion that the committee move forward with paying the first invoice and have additional questions answered by Bradley County attorney Crystal Freiberg. The motion was approved unanimously.
Chairman Ed Elkins said the county should consider implementing a fee in the court system to cover the cost of evaluations.
Later Monday it was discovered that the County Commission budget, which had been designated to fund the invoice, did not have sufficient funds to pay the full amount. Elkins said the issue will be further discussed at the next finance committee meeting.
Also during the meeting:
- A request by the Bradley County clerk to move funding from a part-time salaries budget to a line item that pays full-time employees was pulled from the agenda. The request had originally been made because all of the part-time employees had the left the office to pursue other opportunities.
“It’s in there and then if she needs part-time help she’s got the money in the budget to cover it,” Elkins said.
The issue had been discussed at the previous two finance committee meetings. The committee initially denied the request Oct. 3. The department later resubmitted the request after talking to Elkins. The amendment was delayed Oct. 17 because of unanswered questions.
The committee did pass an amendment to change a line item that the county clerk assistant’s salary is paid from. The amendment was submitted at the request of Elkins to ensure that the entire salary was coming out of the same part of the budget. Previously the salary had been paid out of two different lines of the county clerk’s budget.
- The committee also passed a resolution to move $7,800 from the Bradley County Fire-Rescue reserve fund to cover a 911 tower site rental that had not previously been in the budget. The reserve is general funds that were raised from a previous year. Next year the expense will be put in the budget. Elkins said it should probably come out of the communications budget.
- Several amendments were also passed to accept insurance payments for the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Medical Service.