Officials address ‘significant cost’ of medical care for Lubbock Co. inmates

$8 million spent on medical care for Lubbock County inmates in 2022
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 6:50 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock County is seeing an increase in medical expenses for inmates as overcrowding issues at the Lubbock County Detention Center continue.

Last year, over $8 million was spent to provide medical care for Lubbock County inmates. Sheriff Kelly Rowe says the county is working to cut that cost by providing on-site care.

“We have got a duty to care, custody, and control of these individuals and on that first note, we can’t deny them medical,” Rowe said. “They have got to be treated when they have issues coming in.”

Sheriff Rowe says it is an uphill battle as the inmate population continues to grow in Lubbock County. More inmates lead to more medical expenses. The most common diagnosis is mental illness.

“Almost fifty percent of the population coming into the facility are being identified as having received some level mental health client services prior to arrival into the jail,” Rowe said.

About 25 percent of those inmates require extensive care, while others are medicated and placed in the general population.

The next big expense is dialysis. Rowe states kidney failure is a common diagnosis in the county jail, requiring weekly trips to UMC for treatment.

“That is a significant cost to us, staff, operational cost to get them off-site and take care of that process,” said Rowe.

Rowe says they are working to bring medical equipment and staff to the detention center.

“Costs, first off, are significantly reduced because you are able to treat them in the facility; risks are significantly reduced because you don’t have that transport to and from,” Rowe said. “You don’t have those staff responsible for them while they are in the hospital, while they are moved from point A to point B, in some cases even into surgery.”

Rowe says the next challenge the county will face is finding physicians who are willing to work inside of the detention center.