3 more nurses for Lynnwood jail

LYNNWOOD — The City Council has approved plans to hire three nurses to work in the Lynnwood jail.

Officials are aiming to make the hires in the coming months, said police Cmdr. Jim Nelson, who oversees jail operations.

The first hire will be for an advanced registered nurse practitioner to serve as the jail’s medical director, Nelson said. The director will be a contracted employee, while two part-time nurses will be city employees.

The director will oversee the nurses and develop medical policies and procedures for the jail. The nurses would screen inmates for medical problems, respond to requests for medical attention and manage medication distribution.

The new positions are expected to cost about $160,000 a year, Nelson said.

“It’s something we’ve been trying to do for several years,” he said. “The main issue is just ensuring that we’re fully compliant with state laws and best practices in the area of inmate care.”

The Lynnwood jail houses an average of 40 inmates at a time. Generally, they are misdemeanor offenders who are awaiting court hearings or serving time after sentencing.

Booking restrictions at the Snohomish County jail in recent months have forced the city run jails in Lynnwood and Marysville to explore other options for holding high-risk inmates, including those living with mental illness and other health issues.

Medical care inside local jails has drawn scrutiny in recent years after a series of inmate deaths at the county lockup. Several of the deaths have led to lawsuits and legal claims, including a case where a Lynnwood inmate was transferred to the county jail for medical reasons and died in custody.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office has been working to improve medical service at the county jail. Sheriff Ty Trenary has asked the County Council for permission to hire more full-time nurses, to replace nurses hired through contracts with temporary employment agencies.

The discussion has been delayed by the March 22 mudslide in Oso, officials said.

The county jail has about 17 full-time nurses on staff, and also about a dozen temp nurse positions.

The inmate population hovers around 1,000.

National experts recommend a jail of that size keep about 40 nurses on staff, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

“The goal is to improve quality and safety for the care of the inmates,” she said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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