As Luzerne County officials explore a possible vendor change, the prison’s medical and mental health provider has negotiated a contract extension that beefs up monitoring of inmates, including the addition of video cameras in cells, county documents say.
The administration is publicly seeking proposals from other prison medical/mental health providers but is recommending a one-year extension of the current contract with Kansas-based Correct Care Solutions to ensure inmates are covered, officials said.
If the county ends up selecting a different company, the extension with Correct Care can be cancelled within 120 days, county Manager C. David Pedri told council at this week’s work session.
Council members had questioned Correct Care representatives in January as part of an effort to address four female inmate deaths since June 2017.
Company representatives said they would increase oversight but stressed many prisons are struggling with increased inmate drug dependence and mental health issues.
April 30 is the deadline for submissions to handle the medical/mental health service. Six companies interested in the work, including Correct Care, have toured the facility from “top to bottom,” said Correctional Services Division Head Mark Rockovich.
Council hired Correct Care in March 2015 as part of a prior administration’s recommendation to partially outsource the services to save the county approximately $600,000 annually.
Under the contract, Correct Care is paid around $2.16 million per year to provide a range of services and personnel, including a medical and mental health team to perform inmate screening, health assessments and examinations. Prescription and non-prescription drugs, emergency ambulance transport and other medical treatment also are included in the package.
Several new measures were added in the proposed one-year extension running from May 1 through April 30, 2019, according to county documents:
• Correct Care agreed to purchase computer tablets so clinical staffers can visit inmates instead of making them report to an office, which can create a scheduling and logistical challenge for prison staff. The tablets will remain company property.
• The company will contribute up to $12,000 for cell monitoring cameras through a $1,000 reduction in its monthly receipts. The county must select, buy and install the cameras.
• Another full-time mental health professional will work 40 hours per week at the prison.
• An onsite mental health program will be implemented in addition to existing services that included evaluations, referrals, therapy, crisis management and suicide intervention.
The company is currently paid $179,929 per month, or $2.159 million for a year.
The extension would increase the monthly payment to $184,428, or a total $2.21 million from May 1 through April 30, 2019.
Rockovich said he and his staff are responding to “extremely extensive” questions submitted by companies interested in the work.
A screening committee will review all submissions and accept oral presentations from two or three top-ranked companies, likely on May 7. The administration is aiming for a selection at the end of May.
“We are going to choose the best one that we believe will fulfill the needs of our facility,” Rockovich told council.
The county continues to employ 13 unionized licensed practical nurses at the prison on Water Street in Wilkes-Barre and the nearby minimum offenders building on Reichard Street, but they take direction from Correct Care, according to the county.