Gov. Kay Ivey signs contract for health care in Alabama prisons

By Mike Cason mcason@al.com and published here
The disciplinary segregation ward at Draper Correctional Facility during a media tour of the prison in February 2017. (Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com)
The disciplinary segregation ward at Draper Correctional Facility during a media tour of the prison in February 2017. (Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com)

Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a contract with a Pittsburgh-based company to provide medical care and mental health care in Alabama prisons after a short delay related to a lawsuit filed against the company by the state of Mississippi.

The Department of Corrections will pay Wexford Health Sources Inc., $360 million over 30 months, beginning April 1.

The chairman of the Legislature’s contract review committee, Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, had delayed the contract on March 1. Williams said his concerns were mostly about the Mississippi litigation.

Williams said he released the contract last week because he did not want to hinder Alabama’s efforts to reach an agreement in a federal lawsuit over mental health care for prisoners. The contract review committee cannot block legislation but can hold it for up to 45 days.

“The governor had the ultimate say-so on this. My intention was to give the governor’s office further time to evaluate the situation,” Williams said.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled last year that Alabama’s mental health care for inmates was “horrendously inadequate.” The state has proposed increasing mental health staff in prisons as part of an effort to come up with a plan that would satisfy the court.

The contract with Wexford calls for increased mental health staffing. The Legislature is close to approving a total of about $80 million in additional funding for prisons over two years. Most of that is intended to pay for increased medical and mental health care costs.

The Department of Corrections chose Wexford over two other final bidders, Centurion and Corizon Health. Centurion includes MHM Services, which is DOC’s current mental health provider. Corizon Health is DOC’s current medical care provider.

The department has not released the bid amounts. Spokesman Bob Horton said they would be released after the Tuesday deadline for the other bidders to file a challenge. Horton said no protest has been filed as of today.

The state of Mississippi sued Wexford and other companies alleging they had a role in a scheme to pay consultants to bribe state officials. Mississippi’s former prison commissioner was sentenced to prison. Wexford has denied any wrongdoing.

Williams said the Department of Corrections contract includes a provision that Wexford could forfeit a $15 million bond if it turns out the company has not been truthful in its assertions about the Mississippi case.

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