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Alameda County supervisors change jail health care providers

Contract with new company to cost at least $100 million over three years

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 Friday to award its jail health care services contract to a new company and end its relationship with Corizon Health Inc., which has been providing such services for 28 years.

The board's vote ends a lengthy and contentious process that began on Nov. 3, 2015, when Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern asked the board to issue a request for proposals for a new three-year contract for services to the approximately 2,800 inmates who are housed at the county's Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland.

The vote means that Monterey-based California Forensic Medical Group will begin providing services at the jails on Oct. 1.

Kip Hallman, the company's chief executive, said the county will pay his company at least $100 million over three years, with the amount increasing if more inmates are housed at the jails.

Officials at Corizon, which is based in Brentwood, Tenn., threatened to sue Alameda County officials immediately after Friday's vote, which came after the board held a 30-minute closed session with its legal counsel and a one-hour public hearing.

Dr. Harold Orr, Corizon's clinical director in Alameda County, said in a statement, "Because the Board of Supervisors ignored the recommendation of the county's own auditor-controller to reject this flawed bidding process, we'll have to look at our legal options going forward so that we might be able to continue this partnership that we so value."

County Auditor-Controller Steve Manning recently recommended that the board reopen bidding for the new contract because of alleged flaws in the process.

On April 29, a six-person panel appointed by county officials recommended that CFMG be awarded the jail health care contract.

But Corizon, which merged with Prison Health Services in 2011, and has been providing jail health care services for the county since 1988, filed an appeal and Manning found that there were ambiguities in the request for proposals process and said all bids should be rejected and the county should start the process over again.

However, the board voted unanimously on Tuesday to reject Manning's recommendation and scheduled a special meeting for Friday so it could vote to award the contract to CFMG.

The only board member who didn't vote in favor of awarding the contract to CFMG was Supervisor Keith Carson, who abstained.

Carson said the entire process was "extremely complicated" and he wasn't comfortable voting for either CFMG or Corizon.

In 2015, Corizon agreed to pay $8.3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the family of Martin Harrison, who died in custody at Santa Rita in 2010.

In February, the family of Mario Martinez filed a wrongful death suit against Corizon for his death at Santa Rita on July 15, 2015.

John Burris, the attorney for Martinez's family, alleged that Corizon and the Alameda County sheriff's office, which oversees the jails, failed to provide adequate health care for Martinez, who suffered from asthma and nasal polyps, even though they'd been ordered to do so by a judge.

However, CFMG also has legal problems, as it is fighting lawsuits that allege it failed to provide adequate medical care in Santa Cruz, Mendocino and Ventura counties.

Hallman told the Board of Supervisors on Friday that the bidding process "was fair, transparent and thorough and CFMG won convincingly," as the panel that conducted the process awarded CFMG 440 points on a 500-point scale and Corizon was rated third with only 305 points.

A third bidder, California Correct Care Solutions, was awarded 429 points.

Hallman alleged that Corizon "made a corporate decision to strategically understaff" Alameda County's two jails and pledged to fully-staff the jails at all times.

But Orr said Corizon has a lower death rate for inmates at the jails it serves than does CFMG and told the board, "Lives are at stake when you make the decision" about awarding the new contract.

Orr said, "Ultimately, all we want is to preserve the continuity of care on which our patients depend."

Although the new contract is for three years, the Board of Supervisors has the option to extend it up to six years if it's happy with the services that CFMG provides.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

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