Nevada lawmakers' refusal to automate the state prison pharmacy system could cost upwards of $600,000 a year, Prison Medical Director Ted D'Amico said Tuesday.
D'Amico told Interim Finance Committee members the plan would eliminate three pharmacists and one pharmacy technician, reduce the number of errors in delivering medicines to inmates and greatly improve inventory control.
"The Achilles heel for the state has been the pharmacy," he said.
He told the committee Nevada has an "antiquated" system in which pharmacists "dole out pills" for inmates. He said keeping tight control over inventory is difficult, that it's hard to make prescriptions follow the inmate when they are moved from one institution to another and that medicines are wasted because of the old-fashioned system.
He said allowing him to move to an automated system has numerous advantages that will save the state at least $350,000 a year and -- because of reduced time in handling medications -- thousands more in nursing and other staff time.
He said it will also greatly improve accountability and help prevent inmates from "rat-holing" medicines -- saving pills up to take all at once for a possible narcotic effect.
He said the automated system, which is now used by numerous hospitals, reduces prescription errors and allows managers to reduce unnecessary prescribing of certain medicines.
But Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, tabled the issue until the committee's next meeting -- probably in November.
After the meeting, D'Amico said that forces him to fill two vacant pharmacist positions because he must provide services to the 10,000 inmates in the Nevada prison system.
"It's too bad," he said. "I have no choice but to go back to the antiquated system."
He estimated the total cost to the state will be at least $600,000 a year unless a new system for controlling and distributing pharmaceuticals is approved.
In addition, IFC members:
-- Approved $479,482 for the Desert Research Institute to operate Nevada's cloud seeding program over the Sierra this coming winter. The program is credited with generating thousands of acre feet of precipitation over the past two decades to increase the water supply in Western Nevada.
-- Approved $5 million over the next two years for the Department of Taxation to collect taxes approved by the 2003 Legislature.
Taxation Director Chuck Chinnock told committee members they have implemented cigarette and liquor tax increases as well as new collection allowances and the change from a one-time to an annual fee for businesses. He said they are signing up businesses for the new employee and other business taxes and working on rules that will implement the new entertainment and payroll taxes. He said they are also working with county officials to begin collecting the new state real estate transfer tax. He said some of the money will pay for computer programming to actually tally, collect and audit the $836 million tax plan.
-- Approved a series of budget transfers to set up the new state Division of Mortgage Lending. The division was created by the 2003 Legislature to put tighter reins on the mortgage industry including requiring background checks of brokers and agents. They also approved hiring an administrator for that division at a salary of up to $80,499 a year.
-- Approved spending money raised by a new 6 percent assessment on long-term care facilities to help pay nursing home costs for qualified Medicaid patients. The daily payments will increase from an average of $122 to $149. But providers were warned that will drop back by about $1 a day in 2005 because one-time federal funding received this year will go away.