OGDEN – Weber County officials have hired a contractor to investigate the possibility of expanding the county jailmedical and mental health facilities.
The end result could be a proposed expansion of the facility, similar to the $ 8.7 million expansion of the Davis County Jail that began last February to increase medical supply there. But things in Weber County haven’t reached that point yet – County Commissioners Tuesday Action only calls on an architect to assess needs and suggest improvements.
“It just brings us to this next step, (so) that we can assess whether and when a new medical wing would be needed or could even be considered, in terms of costs,” said Commissioner Gage Froerer. “Planning for this today, in my opinion, is wise. We are not committing to it. We are just saying consider some options, plan ahead, prepare for the future.”
That said, he suspects that some sort of prison extension will be needed “sooner or later”. Weber County Correctional Facility, part of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office Institution at 721 W. 12th St., opened in 2000 and has a capacity of over 800 inmates.
Likewise, Commissioner Scott Jenkins, who reluctantly voted yes to hiring GSBS Architects of Salt Lake City to manage the work, said obtaining the upgrade plans could be the “precursor” to a formal upgrade proposal. The cost of assessing the medical and mental health needs of inmates and developing plans to modernize the Weber County correctional facility will cost $ 22,750, according to the contract with GSBS. GSBS is also responsible for developing plans to increase access to remote courts at the prison.
Increasingly, prison operators are faced with drug addiction and mental illness among inmates, in addition to more common medical needs. This has increased the pressure on the penitentiaries of groups like the American Civil Liberties Union to improve their offers.
Captain Phillip Reese of the Sheriff’s Office, who spoke to the commissioners on the matter, noted the pressure from the ACLU in the mid-1990s for Weber County to improve its jail. For now, he said, the county is not facing that kind of pressure, is not acting under the threat of a possible legal order.
“I am proud to be part of a team that is proactive in our community and seeks to meet the needs of those we incarcerate in our facility in order to create essential medical and mental health services before any threat of legal action is threatened.” , Reese told commissioners. “It’s just the right thing to do and the right thing to do.”
In accordance with the agreement with GSBS, the company will present four proposals to increase medical and mental health services, two of the concepts using only the existing space in the penal institution. The company must come up with cost estimates and a recommendation for the county.
In Davis County, plans call for the construction of a 22,000-square-foot two-story wing to serve as a medical observation unit. It is due to be completed by the end of the year and will contain 21 single cells, two group cells, two padded cells, a nursing station, two telehealth rooms and more.
Froerer said the issues that precipitated the search for an expansion of medical and mental health services in Weber County are not new. “I would say we have seen a substantial increase in mental health issues in this county over the past few years,” he said.
He noted another decision about a year ago to improve the standard of medical care for inmates by contracting with a third-party provider. The change has been good, he said, improving care and reducing the potential for a lawsuit against the county over the services prisoners receive.