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Local News

Escambia Corrections Chief Fired

Tidwell.jpg

  There’s a change at the top at the Escambia County agency which oversees the county’s correctional department.  

Michael Tidwell is out, 11 months after succeeding Gordon Pike, who retired in late 2014. County Administrator Jack Brown announced his decision Friday morning.

“It’s a combination of things,” said Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown. “Bottom line, I feel that we need to change the direction we’re moving in to improve oversight and care within the jail facility.”

Six inmates have died in the Escambia County Jail in the past year, and there continue to be problems with medical care, including an open health services administrator position. Brown says dismissing Tidwell is a step towards improving the jail and medical staff.

“Per our policy, Mike [Tidwell}’s got a 90-day notice, and I’ve relieved him of all of his responsibilities,” Brown said. “There are still issues that we have to attack on that jail. This is not the bottom line fix, it’s just part of the problem.”

Chip Simmons, the Assistant County Administrator, has taken over for Tidwell on an interim basis, until a new Corrections Director is hired. The most immediate job appears to be hiring a health services administrator.

“Someone that can help us move forward towards that goal of a safe and secure facility,” said Simmons. “We’re looking for people with that qualification and that skill set.”

In other changes, the medical unit is being returned to the control of the Jail Commander – who can now make decisions in areas such as transporting inmates to outside hospitals.

Administrator Jack Brown is hoping to bring in the same screening committee that hired Michael Tidwell, including Brown, Simmons, who was Pensacola Police Chief at the time – and representatives of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, the judiciary, and the Florida Model Jail Inspections group.

Brown is also scheduled to appear before the County Commission next Thursday, to present a 27-page report on the jail’s health care system by the firm Alliance Medical Management – on which Tidwell had been working. The report will not contain a request for proposal, which Brown says is not necessary.

“My recommendation will be that we hire a medical director for the jail,” Brown said. “In the interim I’m having Dr. Paul Henning, who is our Public Safety Medical Director, to assume that role until we can get it filled.”

The new medical director will set clinical policy and overall management of the health care program. Other recommendations are: establishing an independent monitor position, better determining of financial needs, and possibly changing the pharmaceutical contract to – as Administrator Jack Brown put it – “to get the most bang for the buck.”