Carbon County inmates can expect to pay more during their prison stays starting on Jan. 1.

During the county prison board meeting on Wednesday, the board voted to raise the daily room and board rate; as well as the medical service rates.

The new rates, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, are $20 a day for room and board and $15 for all doctor and nurse visits. Currently, sentenced inmates are charged $15 a day for room and board; $5 a day for doctor visits; and nothing for nurse visits.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, who made the motion to raise the medical visit rates, said that the rates are justified.

"The county employees already pay $15 (for doctor visits), so I think it's only fair," Nothstein said. "I think it will help save on medical costs."

Warden Joseph Gross said the new fees will help bring in added revenue to the prison, which operates on a $3.9 million annual budget.

He also thinks that the new rates will deter prisoners from making frivolous calls for small things, such as headaches, and cuts and scrapes.

The county began looking at ways to lower the prison's expenses last month, when Nothstein asked if the room and board and doctor services could be increased.

At that meeting, the board discussed the rates and asked for a report on money paid by inmates for these charges.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, who was not present at Wednesday's meeting, said last month, that the reason for looking at increasing the rates for inmates came after looking at the budgets for various county departments earlier this year, which were all reflecting higher expenses and lower revenues.

In other matters, Robert Crampsie, county controller, provided the board with an update of the pharmaceutical policy that it adopted last year.

Crampsie provided a breakdown of the costs and savings that the county has seen since the policy went into effect.

He noted that for the first seven months in 2009, before the policy was enacted, the county spent $41,550 on medication for inmates. For the same period in 2010, the county spent a total of $26,713.

"It created substantial savings during the first seven months of this year," he said. "We saved almost $15,000 since we adopted that policy."

Crampsie added that the savings are continuing and it is anticipated that the county will save a total of $25,000 in 2010 on the prison's pharmacy costs.

The county began working on a new pharmaceutical policy last 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 the name brand drug 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 the first month after the policy was enacted, the county saved nearly $3,000 for that month.