By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
“More than 8,000 doses of a frequently abused pain medication are missing from an Indiana prison,” according to The Indianapolis Star, which reports the disappearance of this substance is especially concerning given the state’s new contract with Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources. This is the same company that the Alabama Department of Corrections is currently negotiating with to run the state’s failing prison healthcare management system.
Wexford Health Sources has been chosen by ALDOC despite its many problems in other states. Insiders say Wexford was selected because they are the lowest bidder among the companies seeking to make court-ordered changes to mental health care for the prison population.
According to the Star’s report, there is “well-known risk in prison environments,” for abuse of gabapentin. The report found that Wexford acknowledged the risk in a Dec. 18 document outlining the appropriate use of the drug.
“This drug is highly abused in the drug restricted prison environment,” the company said. “Abuse by prescribed recipients and related trafficking makes the drug a highly valuable commodity, giving every individual prescribed this drug automatic exposure to these incentives and risks.”
Physician and expert on correctional medical care, Ronald Shansky, told the Star that the medication should have been under double lock and key, preventing offenders from even accessing the area where the drugs were kept.
Indiana’s largest daily publication also found that “about 175 to 215 of the New Castle facility’s 3,155 prisoners are prescribed gabapentin…those prescriptions resulted in shipments of more than 38,300 doses during the two-month period of October and November.”
Shansky, a former medical director for the Illinois prison system, said, “That seems like an excessive amount, [of gabapentin.]”
The Indiana Department of Corrections has opened an investigation, which may put Wexford in the middle of yet another prison inquiry.
Alabama officials who are considering turning over state prison healthcare to Wexford have ignored the many issues with the firm’s conduct since taking over Indiana’s contract earlier this year. In Indiana, Wexford appears to be repeating the same pattern and practice, not unlike what it did in Illinois, where a court monitor cited “grossly insufficient and extremely poor quality of psychiatric services.”
The state has also chosen to brush aside a Mississippi investigation into Wexford’s involvement in a corruption-bribery case that landed that state’s prison commissioner in prison.
Wexford has not been accused of any crimes, but reports of over-promising and under-delivering have been suggested as part of a larger problem.
Currently, there is question as to if Wexford can meet the performance bond required by Alabama. Insiders are saying the state is considering lowering the bond for Wexford in order to keep their bid in play.