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State likely to approve short-term extension of prison health contract

The company has failed to meet court-mandated levels of mental health care staff in ADOC’s correctional facilities.

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State officials are poised to extend a contract with Wexford Health Services, a Pennsylvania-based healthcare services company and healthcare provider for the Alabama Department of Corrections, during the scheduled meeting of the Alabama Legislature’s joint Contract Review Committee this coming Thursday, according to a copy of the meeting agenda obtained by APR.

The committee agenda shows a roughly six-month renewal on the state’s existing contract with Wexford, equaling $117,800,000 and scheduled to end on March 31 of the upcoming year. This newest contract would bring the total amount paid to Wexford over the last several years to $842,339,355, according to the document.

“This Agreement is necessary to discharge the State’s constitutional duty to provide medical and mental healthcare to State inmates until such time the ADOC develops and procures a competitive RFP process.” the justification for the contract reads.

Earlier this month, the ADOC pulled a contractual agreement with YesCare Corporation, a Tennessee-based medical and mental health care service provider, after awarding the company a three-year contract in late June. The ADOC has not released official reasoning behind its decision to rescind the agreement.

The committee is an oversight committee and does not have the ability to strike down a contract during its review. However, the committee may delay final approval for contracts, which it did with the Wexford agreement in 2018, due to the company’s then-alleged involvement in a Mississippi bribery scandal involving their head of prisons.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s office ended up collecting almost $27 million from prison contractors who had used consultants and bribes to influence now-former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, according to the Clarion Ledger, who is currently serving a federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in the case.

Wexford paid $4 million to the state of Mississippi for its involvement.

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The Montgomery Advertiser reported last week that the company is still failing to meet court-mandated levels of mental health care staff in each of the ADOC’s correctional facilities — something that the company has continually failed to do not just in Alabama but also Indiana and Illinois.

Those levels of mental health staff are reported each quarter due to a federal lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center that alleges, among other things, that the ADOC allowance of “persistent and severe shortages” of mental health care staff consistently put the health and safety of prisoners at risk and contribute to the prison system’s constitutional violations.

John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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