Fulton jail to keep health care provider NaphCare another year

NaphCare will remain the health care provider for Fulton County jail inmates for at least another year.

County commissioners approved a one-year contract renewal extending through 2024, the sixth renewal of a contract signed in 2017. Three more annual renewal options remain.

NaphCare’s service drew criticism in the fallout from the Sept. 13, 2022, death of Lashawn Thompson in the Rice Street jail’s mental health unit. A county medical examiner’s report said the 35-year-old’s cause of death was undetermined, but an independent autopsy said he died of neglect. Thompson’s family said he had been visibly deteriorating for some time but was ignored, and died covered in lice and bedbugs.

In September 2023 the county agreed to pay Thompson’s family $4 million but did not commit to other specific actions. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the jail, citing Thompson’s death as one of dozens in the facility during the past few years.

Partly in response to the criticism over Thompson, NaphCare announced it would pull out of its contract May 31 of this year. The company agreed to a June 30 extension at the request of county officials.

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said he was seeking a new health provider. But he couldn’t find one, and NaphCare agreed to stay — with additional funding for more personnel, more security, and passing the cost of inmate medications on to the county.

Under the latest contract renewal, the county will pay NaphCare and four subcontractors $33.8 million for medical and mental health services at the Rice Street facility and other locations, plus up to $5.5 million in pass-through costs for medication.

The county holds inmates at the main Rice Street facility, South Annex in Union City, Marietta and Alpharetta jails, and the former Atlanta City Detention Center. Some are also outsourced to other counties.

The contract’s first year was for $20.7 million. With renewals and amendments since then, by the end of 2024 NaphCare will have been paid $185.1 million, according to the agreement. That includes $4.8 million in funding added in June 2023.

The bulk of the contract, about 97%, will go to NaphCare of Birmingham, Alabama, through its subsidiary NaphCare of Fulton County LLC.

Four specialized subcontractors will divide the rest of the funding:

  • CharDonnay Dialysis Inc. of Danville, Illinois, receiving 0.5%
  • Bio-Reference Laboratories Inc. of Elmwood Park, N.J., receiving 1.56%
  • Global Diagnostic of Conyers, receiving 1.3%
  • Institutional Eye Care of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, receiving 0.03%

As part of the renewal process, a vendor performance report rated NaphCare as “excellent” in most categories, with only one marked as “needs improvement.”

It notes NaphCare lacked enough doctors at the jail after its medical director left. The report cited “ongoing staffing issues.”

Labat has said the problem is not limited to health care personnel: the jail is persistently understaffed, which he blames on poor working conditions in the old building, and low pay and benefits compared to other law enforcement jobs in the region.

In a related item, commissioners approved an amendment to NaphCare’s existing contract: adding $1.2 million to pay for “physical and mental health services to inmates at the south Annex and one (full-time) medical escort officer to support court-mandated mental health programming at the Atlanta City Detention Center” from July through December of this year.