Summit County jail commander caps tenure with two major projects before heading to top state job

Jack Queen
Summit County Jail nurse Jenny Buslillos, left, and Sheriff Deputy Cora Johnson await for inmates medical check-ins Wednesday, Nov. 1, inside the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge.
Hugh Carey / |

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has contracted with a health services company to provide full-time medical care for inmates at the county jail, an improvement decades in the making that officials hope will improve inmate care, ease stress on deputies and reduce transports to the hospital.

The arrangement with Southern Health Partners provides an on-site nurse 40 hours per week and a visiting doctor two hours per week. The company is also hoping to bring on a medical technician who will distribute inmate medication.

The move comes just a month after completion of the Summit County Justice Center’s surveillance system overhaul, another long-awaited project overseen by detentions commander Erik Bourgerie.

He is set to retire on Friday after 21 years with the Sheriff’s Office to become director of Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training, the agency that manages certification and training for all active police officers in the state. The timing isn’t a total coincidence.

“I think these projects are part of why I decided to move on,” he said. “I’ve accomplished the major goals I had for the division, so this is a good stopping point for me.”

Bourgerie has headed up the jail division for nearly 10 years. Throughout that time, there has been sporadic on-site medical care, but the addition of the full-time nurse position is a first.

“This is probably an accumulation of about 20 years of effort,” Bourgerie said. “Now we were finally able to get funding for comprehensive medical care, and we think it’s going to be a lot better than the previous system.”

Before, detentions sergeants were charged with making the vast majority of medical decisions at the jail, a duty that added another layer of stress to an already difficult job.

When medical situations arose, sergeants would often err on the side of caution and send inmates to the hospital. But with a nurse on-site, Bourgerie hopes those time-consuming transports will go down.

“It will absolutely be a lot more efficient to have a nurse here,” Bourgerie said. “Working at the jail is stressful in general, and certainly having to deal with medical situations adds to that.”

The one-year contract will cost the county roughly $213,000 per year. When it expires, Bourgerie said jail staff would likely consider renewing it on a multi-year basis.

The surveillance overhaul cost the county around $350,000 from its capital projects fund and replaced a cobbled-together system of 53 cameras with 99 new ones.

“It’s been working wonderfully,” Bourgerie said. “It gives staff the ability to monitor the jail and the entire justice center campus much better. That makes staff’s job a lot easier because they can identify situations sooner and head them off.”

Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said that both projects were gaps his office identified during the budgeting process, and the Board of County Commissioners signed off on them last year.

“Just because people are in jail doesn’t mean they’re not part of the community, and they still need quality medical care,” he said. “This is a huge improvement.”

Bourgerie said that it will be difficult to leave the Sheriff’s Office after so long, but he’s looking forward to taking the top job at POST.

“I really am sad to leave,” he said. “I’ve been very honored and privileged to serve this community, but I think this new position gives me a lot of opportunity.”

FitzSimons, who has worked with Bourgerie for nearly 13 years, said he was excited for his jail commander’s new opportunity to take over at POST, the body that regulates Colorado’s police officers and doles out training grants, among other duties.

“When that opportunity came up I was rooting for him,” he said. “He’s been such a POST expert for years. That director job is perfect for him, and I’m confident he’ll take POST in a positive direction.”

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