A recent decision to create a new pharmacy expense policy at the Carbon County Correctional Facility is paying off.

During the monthly meeting of the county prison board, Robert Crampsie, county controller, announced that since the county implemented a new policy on prescription drugs, the monthly cost for inmate prescriptions has dropped 49 percent. The new policy calls for the medical staff to prescribe generic brand drugs to inmates before name brand medications.

"We saw a significant savings in August regarding the pharmacy bill," Crampsie said, noting that the monthly average that the county was paying for prescriptions was $5,936 before the implementation of the new policy.

From January to July, Crampsie continued, the county spent $41,550 on prescription medications for inmates. In August, the county's bill was $3,077, a $2,859 savings from July's bill.

He also said that of that $2,859 savings for the month of August, $2,123 was from the change over of prescribing psychotropic drugs, such as Seroquel, which according to the drug's Web site, is a mood-stabilization medication, to a generic brand first. This represents a 47 percent savings on psychotropic drugs.

The county began working on a new pharmacy expense policy in May, after Crampsie reported that the number of Carbon County's inmates on prescription psychotropic drugs is higher than the national average, which is 24 percent. Carbon County's average, at the time was 34 percent, or one in every three inmates housed at the Broad Mountain facility.

During that meeting, Crampsie said benefits to such a policy would include a savings of over $2,000 a month, and that inmates who are released would be more likely to continue to take the generic brand medication because it isn't as expensive as Seroquel.

Board officials met with the prison medical staff and psychiatrist to devise a policy that would be acceptable to both parties. It was agreed upon that under the new policy, doctors would first prescribe generic brand drugs. If the drugs did not work, the inmate would need to go through further testing before being taken off the generic brand and put on the brand name medication.

In other matters, the board discussed the Live Scan Booking Station and Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network, which the county accepted from the Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association in June 2008 for free.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, who has been against the project from the start, posed many questions regarding the operation of the equipment, including which department will be financially responsible, how will a part-time employee be paid, and what is the plan for this equipment.

Mary Fairchild, administrative assistant, said she submitted budget information in her 2010 budget request that would cover hardware and software costs, as well as personnel for the system.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein said a meeting has been set up with law enforcement officials to determine how the county would handle the system. The plan would then be presented to the board at a later time.

O'Gurek noted that he still feels the whole idea is not going to be beneficial to the county prison.

The Live Scan system project has been a heated topic since the county voted to accept the equipment.

Since it was accepted, the county has had to bid out a project to run fiber optics for the system, as well as install a new underground conduit from the Emergency Management Agency to the county prison, both located on the Broad Mountain in Nesquehoning, after learning that the current conduit that runs between the two facilities had sprung a leak and could potentially create a problem. BCI Communications of Monmouth, N.J., submitted the low bid of $27,778. This project was not in the initial setup cost estimates.