Friday, February 12 , 2016, 11:28 pm | Fair 54º

County On Hook for $510,000 in Annual Drug Costs for One New Jail Inmate

Sheriff Bill Brown to ask Board of Supervisors for help since price of single suspect's prescription requirements exceeds jail's annual budget

Regardless of cost, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the County Jail, is required to provide inmates with a minimum standard of medical care while a suspect is in custody. One current inmate — accused of serious, violent crimes — has a medical condition whose treatment costs $2,760 per dose for a minimum of three doses a week.
Regardless of cost, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the County Jail, is required to provide inmates with a minimum standard of medical care while a suspect is in custody. One current inmate — accused of serious, violent crimes — has a medical condition whose treatment costs $2,760 per dose for a minimum of three doses a week.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

In the last few years, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown has become accustomed to doing more with less. He’s now facing one of his biggest challenges yet, and it all started with an arrest.

Noozhawk has learned that one County Jail inmate, arrested in February, may cost county taxpayers more than a half-million dollars — a year — for the prescription medications he needs to deal with a life-threatening condition.

The inmate, whose name and medical condition have not been released, was booked into the jail on serious violent criminal charges and “this person is likely to remain in custody for a significant amount of time,” according to a March 12 letter Brown sent to County Executive Officer Chandra Wallar.

The cost of the man’s medicine is larger than the jail’s entire annual budget for prescription drugs for all inmates.

According to county staff reports, the man requires a dose of the medication three times a week, with each dose costing $2,760.

“On occasion, the individual has complications with his condition and additional doses of medication are required to treat the complications,” the report states. “It is estimated that the yearly cost of the medication, including regular and additional doses, will be approximately $510,048.”

Because of patient privacy laws, Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars said he could not reveal any information about the suspect’s alleged crimes or his identity.

But Sugars said the jail must provide treatment, even if it’s costly, because there is a minimum standard of care required while a suspect is in custody.

Several years ago, he said, a homicide suspect was diagnosed with cancer and went through extensive treatment while in jail, with his medical bills paid by the county.

As for the current inmate’s situation, “it’s an extreme case, but it is an example,” Sugars said.

Brown will appear before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to request additional funds for the county’s current contract for inmate prescriptions.

Prior to the arrest, Brown said, the suspect received his medication free of charge through a state program. That funding source, known as the Genetically Handicapped Persons Program and administered by the state Department of Health Care Services, helps provide medical care for genetic conditions like hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.

But because the man is now incarcerated, he no longer qualifies.

Brown also said that alternative sentencing isn’t an option because the man’s alleged crimes are serious, and that it’s doubtful he’ll be able to post bail.

He said he’s been in discussions with the District Attorney’s Office and the suspect’s defense attorney about the situation.

“Keeping the rights of the individual in mind, they will make every attempt to keep his criminal proceedings moving without delay,” Brown said.

The Sheriff’s Department has been working with the suspect’s former primary-care physician; the jail’s health-care provider, Corizon Health Services; the county Public Health Department; and local pharmacies to determine how to properly care for the man. The county also has reached out to the drug manufacturer, Baxter Pharmaceuticals, for assistance, but with no luck.

The jail’s medical staff has changed the medication and even gotten a discount, but that’s reduced the cost to $2,760 per dose from $3,200.

“This is still extraordinarily high,” Brown said.

County staff is recommending that the supervisors approve a sole-source request Tuesday to purchase the medication from an Oxnard pharmacy that specializes in assisting people with the condition. They say DRG Pharmacy is able to provide the medications at a lower price than any other local pharmacy.

“We are not requesting a budget revision at this time,” said Brown, adding that the inmate is not in jail as a result of AB 109, the public safety realignment bill aimed at reducing overcrowding, costs and recidivism in state prisons.

Under the law, signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown, more convicted criminals are allowed to serve their sentences in county jails rather than be sent to state prisons.

Officials have said Santa Barbara County’s jail is overcrowded and is only designed to hold pre-trial inmates and those with sentences up to a year. Now, with the new state law, it’s faced with housing even more inmates.

“We would have been faced with this problem prior to criminal justice realignment,” Brown said of the new inmate’s medical costs.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 03.19.12 @ 11:25 AM

Under what leap of logic did we decide that because HE is sick and needs drugs and HE did a crime then WE have to pay for his drugs? He should be allowed to get his own drugs!

No one pays for my drugs and I haven’t done any crimes.

» on 03.19.12 @ 12:03 PM

If the law were changed so that Criminals were automatically dropped from receiving anything that the taxpayers have to foot as a bill perhaps some criminals would think twice about committing a crime. I know it works with intelligent people, whether it will work with people with a criminal mind is yet to be seen. Meanwhile if you can’t afford to pay for medicine, just go out and commit a crime. The only thing to be learned from history is, that nothing is to be learned from history.

» on 03.19.12 @ 12:17 PM

Art, I think it’s because insurance companies, as well as Federal and state programs like Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal) do not cover the health care costs of incarcerated insureds.

» on 03.19.12 @ 12:30 PM

This is unbelievable. Ordinary citizens with no criminal record go without any drug coverage yet this is allowed to happen. How can this possibly be? Think about this the next time you hear about the need for a tax increase to balance the budget and vote accordingly.

» on 03.19.12 @ 12:33 PM

He probably committed the undisclosed crime in order to finance his prescription. I can live for ever too, on life support, for 2000 dollars a week. Ironically cheaper. Given the choice between living in jail, and dying on the street, it would be no surprise if the arrest was intentional.

» on 03.19.12 @ 01:03 PM

Charlie Foxtrot.  This is shocking and goes with the $1 billion a year the State pays for incarceration of non-citizens.  Dang.  Yup, Art, maybe we now have a society where we pay billions for our incarcerated citizens and their healthcare while those of us who are `free’ are free to pay tens of thousands per year for our own health insurance, or free to die.

» on 03.19.12 @ 01:05 PM

Have they tried Canadian pharmacies?  I’d be happy to forward junk email links I receive almost daily…but I’m guessing it’s not Viagra he needs.

» on 03.19.12 @ 01:05 PM

WOW! Once again, SB comes to the rescue of transients and criminals…good job! I guess I need to either quit my job, live in a motor home on the streets of SB or commit a crime then I’ll be “prequalified” for free, (& tax free) housing, medical attention,food,snacks,all the free time in the world on my hands and NOW free prescription drugs….Thanks SB!

» on 03.19.12 @ 01:52 PM

Utterly ridiculous.  Soon the only way to afford living in California will be either homeless or criminal.  I object to my tax dollars being used for this.

» on 03.19.12 @ 01:53 PM

Nearly $3,000 per dose for a prescription? Sounds like gouging to me and maybe should be illegal. How many millions do the CEOs of the drug companies have to make off us? Maybe they can get it cheaper n Canada…

» on 03.19.12 @ 02:07 PM

Looks to me like he’s innocent. Release him!

» on 03.19.12 @ 02:07 PM

As we accommodate the rights of criminals and terrorists, the rights and privileges of good, caring, hardworking, law abiding citizens are getting trampled more and more. Mom was wrong. Crime does pay.

For those of you who said “Tax me more”... why don’t you donate to this drug fund? This is the type of insane thing that “higher taxes” are accommodating. Taxes rob us of the precious commodity of time…. the more we have to pay, the more we have to work. Thus, taxes take away freedom.

» on 03.19.12 @ 02:17 PM

Looks like one way or another, we end up paying for it.  Whether it’s through the state or the county, this degenerate is getting a free ride.  Why, exactly, do I show up to work every day?

» on 03.19.12 @ 03:09 PM

Tax-payers are just being milked. If the the government is involved, the program will always run poorly.

No new taxes in Nov!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Its a huge spending problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!

» on 03.19.12 @ 05:21 PM

» samolly on 03.19.12 @ 10:07 AM
Looks to me like he’s innocent. Release him!

Excellent solution, put him on probation with a ankle bracelet to keep a track on him, but he is free to go to the pharmacy on his own.  Still, I cannot believe the state will cover costs for felons…time for Das Williams to take action on this and get some credit for cost savings.

Otherwise, there has to be a limit on medical costs for inmates…I can see a lot of crimes being committed by cancer victims to be able to have unlimited medical funding.

» on 03.19.12 @ 07:44 PM

Why not trade him to Rick “I know how to deal with these people” Perry for a future

» on 03.19.12 @ 07:50 PM

Yes, this particular incident would have occurred regardless of realignment.  However, the guy who was just sentenced to 23 years, all to be served in our county jail, IS a result of realignment and WILL cost our taxpayers significantly over the course of his incarceration period- let’s hope he doesn’t require any serious and expensive medical care in the next 11 years or so.  And he is just one example of realignment.  A lot of these prisoners/parolees are either mentally or physically ill (or both) resulting in significant medical costs.  Medical costs that were once the responsibility of the State, but now fall on the back of our broke and overburdened counties.  Realignment was nothing but a shell game.  Our communities will absolutely feel the repercussions of this poorly thought out legislation, both in our pocket books and in terms of our public safety.

» on 03.19.12 @ 08:37 PM

State money, federal money, county money…it’s all just different pockets in the same pair of pants.

» on 03.19.12 @ 09:27 PM

Scanner is absolutely right. People constantly refer to money from the state or money from the feds as if it magically comes from another planet. It ALL comes from the money they all confiscate from us in the form of taxes. When they “give” us some of it back, they make a big deal about it as if it was some sort of gift.

» on 03.19.12 @ 10:27 PM

No Art, you are oversimplifying the issue and missing my point.  Bottom line - the state has the facilities and resources to incarcerate and supervise our worst criminals.  The counties, on the other hand, do not and will not - regardless of the outcome of Brown’s pending tax initiative. Brown and the Democrats have drastically changed our criminal justice system via realignment.  Unfortunately, they failed to address the real problems and simply dumped the problems onto our unprepared counties.  And the very predictable result is the bankruptcy of our counties and a significant spike in crime.  Meaning you are not getting the most bang for your buck, Art.

» on 03.19.12 @ 10:30 PM

“The county also has reached out to the drug manufacturer, Baxter Pharmaceuticals, for assistance, but with no luck.”

And don’t think for one second that the drug manufacturers don’t know that a certain percentage of their customers on certain drugs are wards of the state (wards of the taxpayer) and thus the drug companies can price their drugs accordingly.  I don’t know this for a fact, but this wouldn’t surprise me a bit, knowing how drug companies operate.

» on 03.21.12 @ 02:29 AM

Dink- I’m with YOU! He may have to receive his medications! HATS off to that man…soon everyone here in S.B. may follow him since cottage hospital is turning their back on people! Perhaps that may be the only way we can all get our meds soon, since there is no treatment here in s.b. once a great place to live!!! Folks s.b. use-to be a wonderful and beautiful place, very friendly and compassion!!! NO MORE!!! Those days are gone with the wind!!!

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