State puts prison healthcare problems under a new health care service provider

prison jail

On Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) announced that YesCare, Corp. has been selected to enter negotiations for the department’s comprehensive healthcare services contract. Inmate healthcare has been a problem in Alabama prisons for years.

Alabama Today spoke with a psychiatrist who formerly worked for ADOC treating the inmates/patients.

“Care sucked in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” said the doctor, who asked that his name not be used. “It sucked in the early-mid 20teens. It has been going on for 20 years. Guess what? It still sucks!”

Alabama Today asked if recruiting physicians who want to treat convicted criminals is difficult.

“It doesn’t suck this bad in other states,” the doctor said. “It doesn’t suck this bad at Bryce or at Searcy back in the day. Why must Alabama prison health care suck so bad for so long? Hint: idiots and cheapskates and apathy, mainly.”

“I was seeing 36 to 40 patients a day,” the doctor continued. “It was ridiculous.”

YesCare was among four healthcare companies that responded to the ADOC’s request for proposals (RFP), which was issued on September 26, 2022. In addition to YesCare’s proposal, the ADOC received submissions from Centurion, VitalCore, and Wexford.

“The RFP evaluation committee conducted a thorough and extensive examination of each vendor’s proposal. After careful consideration of the evaluation committee’s recommendations, the ADOC decide to enter into contract negotiations with YesCare based on a combination of quality care and overall cost,” said Commissioner John Hamm.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has sued the state in federal court on behalf of several current and former Alabama inmates, alleging that the state does not provide adequate mental health treatment, drug treatment, and healthcare to inmates.

The lawsuit, Braggs v. Dunn, was filed in 201allegedlleges that ADOC systemically puts the health and lives of incarcerated people at risk by ignoring their medical and mental health needs and by discriminating against incarcerated people who have disabilities – violations of federal law by a prison system that has one of the highest mortality rates in the country.

Ashley Austin is a staff attorney for the SPLC’s Criminal Justice Reform Practice Group.

“Alabama must provide constitutionally adequate care for the human beings in its prisons,” Austin said.

The SPLC and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program joined the law firms of King & Spalding and Hogan Lovells in presenting evidence that they claim shows horrific and inhumane conditions inside the prisons.

The state has been ordered by federal judge Myron Thompson to hire additional corrections officers.

The state is also facing a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging that the conditions in Alabama’s 27 correctional facilities are so inhumane that incarceration in Alabama’s prisons constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and is thus unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.

The negotiations on the final terms of the contract are expected to take weeks. In its recommendation, the RFP review committee considered the company’s experience and qualifications, delivery of care, program management, support services, staffing requirements, and compensation. The four-year and six-month contract will go into effect on April 1, 2023.

YesCare is headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee. They have more than 40 years of correctional healthcare experience, having served clients and patients at more than 475 facilities across the country.

Details of the contract or even the bids have not been released to the public. Once the contract is final, all proposals and the results from the RFP review committee will be public record.

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