AUGUSTA – Kennebec County officials say they have quickly signed on another inmate medical service provider following the surprise announcement recently by Correctional Health Partners that it would no longer cover those services at the Kennebec County Jail due to a disputed bill.
In a special meeting Friday, Kennebec County commissioners voted to contract with CPS Health Care, which is already providing mental health services at the jail, to also provide inmate medical services for the remaining five months on the CHP contract.
Correctional Health Partners, which has served at least three Maine county jails, has also ended its services in Androscoggin County. The company notified Kennebec County that it will discontinue service as of August 1.
Kennebec officials have already begun the process of creating options to review the jail’s medical providers. Two months ago, the county issued a request for proposals for health care at the jail, and those proposals are due at the end of the month.
The Kennebec County Correctional Facility’s inmate population typically numbers about 140 and has a staff of about 50.
CPS Health Care, based in Massachusetts, provides services to the sheriff’s offices in Kennebec and York counties.
“We cannot go a day without medical services at the jail,” said Kennebec County Administrator Scott Ferguson. “If we had a break in the medical service, we would have to send the inmates to other prisons across the state.”
Attempts to reach the Correctional Health Partners office in Denver this week were unsuccessful after calls to several departments, including media relations, were not returned.
Ferguson said Correctional Health Partners has sent the county a “real” bill, demanding payment of about $350,000 — an amount equal to about a third of the contract price — in additional costs for the services.
The extra money was apparently to provide premium pay for nurses. Ferguson said that when he asked for additional details, including time sheets and other supporting documents to justify the bill, he was given only a spreadsheet of “random information.”
“This has become a legal issue,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he would be willing to settle with the company because there may have been higher costs, but he would like to see more documentation than the company has provided to date.
Clarice Proctor, interim county administrator for Androscoggin County, said in an email Tuesday that Correctional Health Partners has also given the county notice of its termination.
“We have already found a new company to contract with without interruption in service,” Proctor wrote.
She said she has not seen any additional billing from Correctional Health Partners.
Meanwhile, Knox County is currently in the first year of a three-year contract with Colorado-based Correctional Health Partners.
“We still have them at this point, and that’s all I can say,” Knox County Administrator Andrew Hart said. “I know there have been some discussions of concerns with them, but those are being addressed by corrections staff and discussions with our attorney.”
Hart said as far as he knows, Correctional Health Partners has not sent any additional bills to Knox County. And while there have been problems, Hart said the county and the health care provider have worked through them.
Currently, Correctional Health Partners is advertising to fill administrative, nursing and substance abuse positions in Rockland.