ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Corrections hired a new firm to oversee inmate health care in Minnesota prisons, ending a 15-year relationship with Brentwood, Tenn.-based Corizon Health Inc., which was a target of lawsuits and staff complaints. Since 2000, there have been at least nine inmate deaths and several injuries related to poor or delayed care within the state prison system, according to the Star Tribune.
Corizon Health Inc. was the lowest of three bidders to bid on the health care contract, but the department signed a two-year contract with Centurion Managed Care, a national health care provider that claims to have innovative approaches to preventive and mental health care for the about 9,000 inmates in Minnesota. Centurion is owned by St. Louis-based Centene Corp., a multi-line health care enterprise. The contract is worth $67 million (about $115,600 more than Corizon’s contract) and will start on Jan. 1.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections expects Centurion to “deliver significant savings to taxpayers while improving the quality of care for offenders,” Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said in a statement.
The Centurion contract, however, does not include daily prison staffing levels, which was one of the biggest complaints about Corizon from inmates, corrections officers and several attorneys who were hired for neglect cases against the state. The state’s contract with Corizon required only one on-call physician left in charge of overnight medical problems for the entire state, sometimes forcing prison staff to make medical decisions late at night.
The Centurion contract currently only lists the number of hours (not the shifts) that medical staffers will work at the state’s nine correctional facilities; however, the contract includes an additional level of on-call psychiatric coverage that will be provided all hours of the day. Department Spokesman John Schadl said in a statement that these details will be worked out before the contract starts at the beginning of next year.
In addition to the enhanced psychiatric coverage, medications will be provided to offenders via a computerized dispensing system, which would allow nurses to put more focus on care as well as save the department money, according to Roy.
Earlier this year, Centurion also signed contracts to manage prison medical systems in Tennessee and Massachusetts.