Fulton to spend nearly $20 million on health care at the jail

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Fulton County will change the health care provider at the jail, nearly a year after a standoff over a contract renewal led to blustering about the possibility that there would be no care provided.

Commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to spend as much as $19.8 million to provide health care at the jail, including mental and behavioral health. They hired the Nashville company Correct Care Solutions, in conjunction with the Morehouse School of Medicine. They will take over Jan. 1.

Corizon Health's contract was extended last year over the objections of the county's chief jailer Mark Adger. At the time, Adger said Corizon's care was inadequate.

He said the jail lost its accreditation because of Corizon’s poor performance, though the health care provider blamed the staffing at the jail.

Corizon said in an email after Wednesday’s decision that it is “still evaluating the options available to us.”

The new contract is $2 million higher than the jail contract commissioners rejected last year because the cost was too high. But with the extra cost, the county will add more than a dozen full-time employees and will get a new electronic health records system.

Additionally, Adger said, the new provider should do a better job of creating a health care plan for each inmate, including how to deal with the health issues once they are released from the jail. The current provider, he said, more often treated issues as they came up instead of looking at whole patients.

“I think it’s time for a new approach,” Adger said. “We were missing a holistic plan of action.”

That alone won’t go far enough, Fulton Chairman John Eaves said. The county is working to change the way it deals with criminal justice, including by diverting homeless and mentally ill people from entering the jail. Eaves said he wants the new health care provider to play a role in reducing recidivism, perhaps by helping to connect them with health care options and community services once they are released.

“It’s not just providing medical services to a person while they’re in custody,” Eaves said. “There’s an opportunity for creativity here.”

Commissioner Bob Ellis, who voted against the proposal, was concerned that staffing levels were planned with an average daily population of 2,800 inmates, when the current population is closer to 2,550.

“I think we’re throwing money away,” he said.

Vice Chairman Liz Hausmann also voted against the measure, saying she was confused by the breadth of options. Correct Care Solutions and others were able to propose their own staffing recommendations, in addition to those requested by the county.

Adger said he hoped it would be easier to hire staffers “when you start with a clean slate.”

"Corizon's reputation in this field has gotten ahead of them," he said.