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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 9:53 pm | Overcast 60º

 
 
 
 
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After Administrative ‘Breakdown,’ Santa Barbara County Delays Decision on Inmate Medical Contract

Board of Supervisors delays discussion of Corizon Correctional Healthcare contract for medical care inside jail and probation facilities

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will discuss renewing its healthcare contract for a private company providing medical services to jail inmates, including those in the Medium Security Facility.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will discuss renewing its healthcare contract for a private company providing medical services to jail inmates, including those in the Medium Security Facility.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors chose to postpone a decision on a jail health-care contract item on Tuesday after an administrative fiasco unfolded.

The supervisors were being asked to renew a two-year, $10 million contract with Corizon Correctional Healthcare, a private company that contracts with the county to provide medical, dental and psychiatric services to inmates in the jail.

Earlier this summer, the board was asked to approve the contract, but expressed frustration that the company had not provided statistics to show how often it is meeting its goals for care, and had only included a one-page summary instead of the entire contract for approval.

The company was granted a short-term contract extension that runs through Oct. 31.

Those expecting a more permanent contract decision on Tuesday were disappointed when several supervisors reported they did not receive binders with key information on the company’s operations in the jail and probation operations.

Because that information was also not made available to the public before the meeting, the decision was put off until Sept. 8, when the board next meets in Santa Maria.

The item will be heard at 10 a.m. that day so that the public can plan on attending, instead of having to wait most of the day as happened on Tuesday.

Board Chair Janet Wolf said that it appeared the binders had been delivered to each supervisor’s offices, instead of to the clerk of the board, as is standard practice.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors delayed a discussion on renewing a health care contract for jail and probation facilities. One of the Santa Barbara County Jail’s medical exam rooms is seen here. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors delayed a discussion on renewing a health care contract for jail and probation facilities. One of the Santa Barbara County Jail’s medical exam rooms is seen here.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

Supervisor Peter Adam explained that the supervisors get dozens of binders of information for all of the items they review.

“We have 100 of these in my office, but I straight up missed it. Maybe they didn’t come through the right channels, but I did receive them,” he said.

Undersheriff Barney Melekian was in attendance on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department, and said that it was the department’s job to distribute them.

“I apologize,” he told the board and the public.

Members of the public were upset that the hearing was being delayed, as several had showed up and missed work, waiting for most of the day.

“Get your act together,” said Suzanne Riordan of Families ACT!, an advocacy group that has been critical of jail health care in the past. “It’s not fair to us.”

Wolf called it a breakdown in communication, saying, “This has been a nightmare and I apologize to everyone.” 

Before the board unanimously agreed to come back on the item, Melekian said that the Sheriff’s Department had “gone to great lengths” to gather information since the last meeting.

Melekian described Corizon as a provider that has been responsible and provided quality health care for inmates in a challenging environment.

One of the metrics Melekian used to showcase that the company had been a success was that the county had seen only six successful litigations regarding medical care in the last 20 years, the average payout of which was $13,000 per settlement.

He also reminded the supervisors that Corizon employees had voluntarily waived cost-of-living increases during the worst years of the recession.

The Sheriff's Department is cognizant of its obligations, legal and moral, to care for inmates, he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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