Charleston County signs $7 million deal with prison’s new medical provider. Are you making improvements? | News

Health care delivery at Charleston County prisons will soon be relocated after the county entered into a formal agreement with a new for-profit correctional care company this month.

County officials and sheriffs say the new partnership with Kansas-based company Vitalcore will bring positive change to Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center. The death of two inmates earlier this spring prompted calls for a federal investigation into a potential pattern of civil crimes at the prison. Infringement. But the county’s failure to hold its current provider, Welpath LLC, to account over the last year has raised questions about whether the new providers can solve the prison’s medical crisis.

In South Carolina’s largest prison, countless people suffered last year without prescription drugs and treatment for mental health and physical injuries, according to prison reports.

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Welpas are being phased out, but some factors in prisons will continue, such as massive vacancies in detention deputies and local health workers. Vitalcore hopes to “retain all current employees” working at the Charleston County Jail, according to a letter from founder and CEO Viola Riggin published on the company’s website. It says.

“We are excited to work with and partner with Charleston County,” she wrote. “Our mission is to establish a culture that recognizes the value of patients, team members and clients through superior products and services that deliver the most positive clinical experiences.”

VitalCore prides itself on its relatively small size and autonomy, unlike many of its competitors run by private equity firms, including Wellpath. A Topeka, Kansas company founded seven years ago, he provides care for more than 48,000 “offenders” at 106 facilities in 15 states. Total revenue is reported to be over $280 million.

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VitalCore ranked highest of three offers for inmate medical and healthcare services to Charleston County. A panel of four sheriff’s office employees and the county alcohol and substance abuse service director evaluated the proposals based on criteria such as clinical experience, program costs, and legal history.

VitalCore’s official launch date at its North Charleston facility is July 1st.

Terms of contract

According to the contract signed on May 8, the county agreed to pay Vitalcore just over $7.4 million annually. That’s $1 million more than what the county is currently paying Welpas, or a 15 percent increase. The price of staffing is responsible for the increase, according to the contract. The contract allows him to renew annually for five years.

VitalCore is also contractually required to take out $9 million more liability insurance than Wellpath had requested. The increase comes as Charleston County is embroiled in lawsuits over prison medical care, including a man with schizophrenia who spent months withering in a filthy isolation cell. Including a wrongful death lawsuit filed by D’Angelo Brown’s mother. His death was ruled a homicide due to gross medical negligence.

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According to data provided by the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center, one in four people detained in prison suffers from severe and persistent mental illness. Charleston County Sheriff Christine Graziano previously said she was dissatisfied with Vitalcore and didn’t believe the provider could meet the behavioral health needs of prison residents.

The sheriff, who declined an interview request for this article, said in a statement provided that he is currently “cautiously optimistic” about the services Vitalcore will provide. Her office will track vendor compliance and will work “in good faith” with VitalCore and county officials, she said.

Contract management

The sheriff’s office operates the prisons, but the county’s office of procurement oversees all contracts between the county and third parties, including prison health care providers. However, a breakdown in communication between the sheriff’s office and procurement hampered the county’s response to a medical deficiency reported by Welpath, leading to nearly a year of inadequate care, according to the mail. It was found by the investigation of the station and the courier company.

Charleston County Council Speaker Herbert Sass said procurement and the Sheriff’s Office are now “on the same page.”

“Everyone is working together, so I’m very optimistic that it will work out,” he said. “They’ll handle the ball when it’s hit and they’ll make it through.”

Sass is confident in his procurement and the sheriff’s office will not make any mistakes of the past.

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Procurement alleges that prison administrators failed to properly document Welpath’s noncompliance last year, preventing the county from contacting the vendor. However, even after the prison began using the procurement forms provided to document Welpass issues, procurement still uses the powers specified in the contract, such as suspending or terminating Welpass and withholding salaries. did not.

Through a publicist, Barrett Tolbert, the county’s contracting and procurement officer, declined to be interviewed to discuss the new contract. In a statement filed, county spokeswoman Kelsey Barlow said the procurement department “will continue to work with the sheriff’s office to follow procurement practices related to the administration of contracts.”

Stuart Andrews, a Columbia-based civil rights attorney and president of the South Carolina ACLU, said he doesn’t believe Charleston County can effectively manage contracts for inmate medical services today, he said. He called it “extremely complicated.”

“The most important consideration when considering a professional services agreement is whether the party purchasing the services understands what they are getting,” says Andrews. “I don’t believe the County of Charleston or the Sheriff’s Department is in a position to effectively evaluate the contracted services that VitalCore provides.”

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Andrews proposed two solutions. First, counties should require health care providers to monitor and evaluate services based on agreed standards of care. The agreement requires providers to maintain certain state and national standards, but does not address any evaluation and reporting mechanisms. Second, counties should engage independent consultants with corrective medicine expertise to proactively evaluate vendors and identify opportunities for early intervention.

“It’s not something that a layperson, a non-expert in the field, should expect to be able to assess simply by reading a statistical report or having a private conversation with the provider,” said Andrews.

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