The Shawnee County Commission on Thursday approved a four-year contract with Corizon Health Services to provide medical and mental health services for the county’s adult and juvenile detention centers.
Commissioners Bob Archer, Shelly Buhler and Kevin Cook voted 3-0 to approve the agreement, which calls for the county to pay Tennessee-based Corizon $3.15 million next year, followed by increases in years two through four of 2.4 percent, 3.5 percent and 3.4 percent.
“This is a good way to go forward,” Buhler said.
No mention was made at Thursday’s meeting of Corizon’s agreement last September to pay $1.7 million to current and former inmates to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging Corizon and the Florida Department of Corrections denied them hernia operations they needed. The complaint alleged Corizon and the Florida corrections department violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment by refusing medical care in an effort to save money.
Buhler asked if Corizon had anyone present at Thursday’s meeting and learned it didn’t.
Corizon, formerly Prison Health Services, has provided services to Shawnee County’s corrections department since 2003.
Deputy jail director Maj. Tim Phelps told commissioners the contract approved Thursday is the culmination of about three years of intensive research targeted at significantly improving its services for the mentally ill. The department researched multiple jails with improved or robust mental health programs, then asked Corizon to put together a bid to provide a significantly stronger mental health program, Phelps said.
The department then opted to seek bids from any companies interested in providing such a program and received bids from two companies: Corizon and Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions.
Administrators and mental health professionals at the corrections department went through those bids extensively and concluded Corizon’s was best, Phelps said.
“This is a solid program, we believe, and we’re excited to go forth with it,” he said.
Commissioners had voted 3-0 on July 31 to authorize county staff members to negotiate the contract.
Phelps said the new arrangement will help the corrections department reduce the risk of liability, because it will offer better mental health services provided by professionals who have the education and ability to best meet the inmates’ needs.
In response to a question from Cook, Phelps said the increases each year in the contract amount were targeted at enabling the county to keep up in terms of paying the competitive salaries of mental health professionals employed by Corizon.
Archer said significant increased costs in the corrections department were part of the 2018 county budget commissioners approved Aug. 17. He said he wanted the public to know commissioners take their responsibilities regarding that department seriously.
Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.