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State budget panel OKs $3M for inmate hepatitis C cure

Idaho’s legislative budget writers approved about $3 million for treating inmates with severe liver disease as well as half a million dollars to add 99 beds to the state’s prison system as inmate populations continue to rise amid rapid state growth.

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning voted unanimously on both supplemental budget requests from the Idaho State Department of Correction.

Prison officials say roughly 30 percent of Idaho inmates have hepatitis C. The medications that cure the condition cost as much as $62,000 per inmate.

Idaho Department of Correction Director Henry Atencio says his department began treating the sickest inmates with hepatitis C last year in accordance with federal standards. That resulted in the nearly $3 million in costs.

Lawmakers also approved the addition of 99 inmate beds to various prison facilities across the state. The department expects to send as many as 1,000 inmates to private out-of-state prisons in the coming year because of overcrowding.

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