Washington County sheriff confirms use of ivermectin at Detention Center

The exterior of the Washington County jail. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)
The exterior of the Washington County jail. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder on Tuesday confirmed that the medical provider for the Detention Center has been prescribing ivermectin to detainees to treat them for the covid-19 virus.

The question was raised at a meeting of the Quorum Court's Finance & Budget Committee during a discussion of the proposed 2022 budget for the Detention Center.

Eva Madison, justice of the peace for District 9, said she had been told by a county employee that Karas Correctional Health had been prescribing ivermectin for them. Madison said the federal Food and Drug Administration has warned against using ivermectin to treat covid-19 and said the county should review the situation before approving a budget that includes money for Karas.

"I think we need to reevaluate who we are using to provide medical care if they are disregarding FDA guidelines and giving de-wormer to detainees at our county jail," Madison said. "It's very disturbing to me that that's the level of care we're providing."

[UPDATE: SHERIFF'S OFFICE RESPONDS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT COVID TREATMENTS: nwaonline.com/news/2021/aug/26/ivermectin-as-covid-19-treatment-for-inmates/]

The Sheriff's Office proposed 2022 budget shows Karas is asking for a 10% increase in its medical services contract.

Helder said he was informed of the use of the medication in July by emails from Karas Correctional Health. Helder said the company has been "an amazing partner" for the Sheriff's Office throughout the covid-19 pandemic. Chief Deputy Jay Cantrell said the company has provided quality medical care before and during the pandemic.

Helder said he will defer to a doctor on matters of treatment.

"Whatever a doctor prescribes, that's out of my bailiwick," Helder said. "But I will stake their record against any medical provider in any correctional facility in the United States. Doctors prescribe. They've been to medical school. I haven't."

The FDA has warned against using ivermectin in treating covid-19.

In an Aug 21 post on Twitter, addressing the use of ivermectin, the agency said: "You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it."

The agency provided more detailed information in a link to that tweet. In it, the agency said "Ivermectin is often used in the U.S. to treat or prevent parasites in animals. The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses."

The agency also said:

• FDA has not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing covid-19 in humans. Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses).

• Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm.

• If you have a prescription for ivermectin for an FDA-approved use, get it from a legitimate source and take it exactly as prescribed.

• Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans.

Helder presented his 2022 budget proposal to the Quorum Court's Finance & Budget Committee at a special meeting Tuesday. The budget did not contain any personnel costs. The committee has said personnel costs will be considered separately in the 2022 budget process.

Several justices of the peace asked that the Sheriff's Office search for covid-related expenses in the budget to see if they might be eligible for reimbursement through the federal American Rescue Plan.

Washington County has received $23 million under the plan this year and expects another $23 million next year. The federal money is part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year.

Helder said he will have his staff go through the budget looking for potential costs that might be eligible for reimbursement.

The committee took no action on Helder's budget.

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What’s next

Washington County’s Finance & Budget Committee is set to meet at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 in the Quorum Courtroom of the County Courthouse, 280 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville. The justices of the peace will continue their review of 2022 budget proposals, with the remaining budgets including those submitted by County Judge Joseph Wood, who oversees the Road Department, county planning and other departments.

Source: Staff report

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