The prison's current $3.2 million medical budget has already been overspent by $800,000 to $900,000 and is certain to run into the red next year, Corrections Director Gary DeLand said Friday.

Speaking to the Corrections Advisory Council, DeLand alluded to an ongoing lawsuit between the state and the American Civil Liberties Union over medical services at the prison and said limitations at the prison's medical facilities aren't likely to change "unless we are forced to change it, which wouldn't hurt me a great deal," DeLand said.The deficit affects another state budget as well, said Jerry Cook, the Corrections Department's technical services director, because the prison's contract for medical services with University Hospital has already been overspent for the fiscal year that ends in July by $600,000.

The hospital expects it will end up absorbing a great deal of the excess costs, Cook said, but is still willing to continue treating prisoners after initial visits. "We ask them, `Do we really need to bring these people back in light of the budget?' and they usually say yes."

Medical needs that didn't even exist years ago are now eating up large portions of the medical budget, Cook said. The state currently spends $10,000 apiece on 25 prisoners with AIDS, Cook said. Of a list of 20 other patients who have "frequent" medical needs, one ran up a $45,000 medical bill in just one week. "We've grown, and the medical contract and money hasn't kept up with it," Cook said.

The Legislature this week gave Corrections a $1 million supplemental appropriation to help with an overall $2 million deficit for the current fiscal year, $480,000 of which is earmarked for medical services.

Corrections will again operate in the red next year, DeLand said, but he added to his report by characterizing medical deficiencies as the department's Achilles heel. "It's always the area we are underfunded on."