Fulton jail to stick with NaphCare through end of year

Contract extension provides upgrades in security and cleanliness

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and NaphCare have reached an agreement that would keep the company in place as the jail’s health care provider through the end of the year.

The company had said previously that the jail was so dangerous that it intended to end its contract at the end of June, but that it was negotiating a potential extension while it hired private security.

The contract extension will be considered by the Fulton County Commission on Wednesday.

“Fulton County and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office wish to continue services with NaphCare, Inc. due to the high quality of healthcare and mental health services provided, as well as the inability to contract with another health care services provider in due time,” the agreement says.

Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat has said publicly that he was seeking a new health care provider for the jail after inmate Lashawn Thompson was found dead and covered in bed bugs.

During the furor over Thompson’s death, NaphCare notified the county it would end its contract effective May 31. The company agreed to a June 30 extension at the request of county officials.

Now NaphCare is expected to complete its contract through the end of the year — but with more money and promises of better security.

Thompson, 35, of Winter Haven, Florida, had been in held for three months before he died in September in the jail’s psychiatric wing.

A county medical examiner’s report did not determine his cause of death, but an independent autopsy cited “complications due to severe neglect.” It found he lost 32 pounds in jail, was not given medication for his schizophrenia, and was covered in lice that could have caused anemia, according to the private autopsy.

NaphCare’s medical records for Thompson have a “significant gap in the documented health care provision between July 27, 2022, and September 8, 2022,” the private autopsy said.

Thompson was unable to care for himself, the whole psychiatric wing was infested with bedbugs and lice, plans to move him were never carried out and staff did nothing about his deteriorating condition, according to a lawyer for Thompson’s family.

NaphCare has provided physical and mental health services at the jail since 2017, under an initial contract for $20.7 million that has been renewed five times, and rose to $27.1 million as of Sept. 21, 2022.

The amendment would add to that contract by $4.8 million.

The amendment also says the full cost of HIV treatment will be passed through to the county, cutting NaphCare’s costs by $3.6 million. Likewise, the county will pay the cost of Hepatitis C medications, except when the inmate already has a prescription.

The amendment lists several moves by the sheriff’s office to improve “security and cleanliness” at the jail, including vital-sign monitors for medical and psychiatric patient inmates; thorough sanitizing; scrutinizing mail for contraband; and adding 91 surveillance cameras.

The amendment also includes $440,000 for technology upgrades.

Starting July 1, NaphCare employees would get a 6% raise in base pay, and the company would hire 13 more staff to handle an expected average jail population of 3,300

The main Fulton jail on Rice Street was designed to hold 1,125 inmates when it opened in 1989. Its regular occupancy passed 3,000 during the pandemic, leading the county to lease space for hundreds of inmates in the Atlanta City Detention Center and the Alpharetta jail.

Consultants have recommended, and Labat has endorsed, construction of a new jail four times the size of Rice Street. It would include much more room for mental and physical health care, education and reentry programs. But the expected price tag is $2 billion, and county commissioners haven’t made a final decision.

In March, NaphCare told the county its staff had been assaulted or at risk of assault 11 times this year, a patient had been stabbed and that Fulton County was the most dangerous of more than 70 jails the company serves. NaphCare CEO Bradford McLane sent a letter to Labat saying the company wouldn’t continue to work in the jail without more security.

Also on Wednesday’s commission agenda is a presentation from the sheriff, county staff and consultant Emergency Management Services International on a “bridging plan” to sustain jail operations until a replacement facility has been decided.

“This plan includes healthcare, food service, retention and enhanced staffing efforts, as well as a staffing analysis, building maintenance, and inmate outsourcing,” the agenda says.