Multnomah County Weighs Spending $200,000 to “De-Silo” Jail Health System

The details of how the money will be spent remain unclear.

Multnomah County's downtown jail. (Brian Burk)

Multnomah County officials propose to spend $200,000 of contingency funds on initiatives to improve relations between the two organizations responsible for the well-being of jail inmates: the sheriff’s office and the county’s health department, WW has learned.

The County Board of Commissioners plans to consider the proposal May 2, according to spokeswoman Sarah Dean, which would “immediately begin efforts to de-silo the sheriff’s office and Corrections Health and build a better working relationship.”

The plan comes after an unprecedented string of seven inmate deaths last year and a subsequent report by a National Institute of Corrections consultant that found “serious health care and operations issues in the Multnomah jail system.”

It specifically criticized the county health department for not sharing crucial information with corrections officers and recommended that Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell hire a “CEO” of jail health services independent of the health department.

That could still be on the table. “The sheriff is starting a corrections recommendation project to evaluate the findings of numerous reports (grand jury, NIC, community jail inspections) and take action on those recommendations, and that could include exploring a third-party position,” Dean says.

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