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Armor threatens to leave Nassau jail early if conditions not met

Nassau County Correctional Facility on Friday, March 11,

Nassau County Correctional Facility on Friday, March 11, 2016 in East Meadow. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau jail’s controversial inmate medical care provider again has threatened to end its contract and leave the East Meadow facility by early next month if county officials don’t meet several conditions the vendor cited in a letter this week.

Among its requirements, Armor Correctional Health Services wants the county to indemnify it against any future malpractice claims, pay more for its services and pay its invoices within 30 days.

Armor previously warned it would exit the jail no later than Oct. 7 if the county didn’t pay its July and August bills — roughly $2 million — by Sept. 9.

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos authorized payment of about half that money Sept. 9, and of the other funds Monday.

But Armor, whose contract ends in May, wouldn’t say then if it still was planning a jail walkout.

However, Armor delivered another ultimatum in its Tuesday letter to County Attorney Carnell Foskey — saying it would only stay beyond Oct. 7 and until its contract ends if the county gave “assurances” certain conditions would be met.

Among them, Armor also said county officials should “cease and desist from speaking about Armor in the media,” saying it has “severely impacted” its ability to attract and keep employees and could “adversely affect patient care.”

Armor executive Eduardo Bertran also wrote in the letter, which Newsday obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, that the company would be seeking more money because its expenses “have increased substantially especially in the areas of personnel costs and pharmacy.”

In addition, Bertran said Armor wants “requirements regarding the continued performance indicators” to “be suspended” because recent staff turnover “dictates the sole focus of remaining staff is patient care.”

County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration pushed back Thursday, releasing a statement from Foskey saying “Armor is obligated to provide health care at the jail under its contract terms with the county.”

“While we don’t envision any amendments to that contract,” Foskey added, “we will review their letter when we have the opportunity.”

An Armor spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday that its staff members “continue to be focused on providing quality patient care” at the jail, before adding: “We would refer you to our client, Nassau County, for any further information.”

Sheriff Michael Sposato, a Mangano appointee who runs the jail, recently told Newsday he doesn’t have a backup plan for meeting inmate medical needs if Armor walks out early.

Some inmate advocates fear the jail is on the brink of a health-care crisis.

Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the legislature’s minority party leader, called Armor’s conditions “outrageous” and “absurd” Thursday, adding: “Their proposal should be dead on arrival.”

Maragos, whose office recently has been doing audits of Armor’s performance, had halted regular payments to the company after New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman sued Armor in July.

Maragos said he wanted to see performance data for each month showing Armor was meeting standards under its contract before he approved payments of its monthly bills.

Schneiderman’s lawsuit, which followed a series of Nassau inmate deaths, alleged Armor has provided “dangerously inadequate” health services. It also said county officials failed to enforce performance terms of Armor’s contract despite wording in the agreement that sets fees for missed benchmarks.

The state Commission of Correction has found Armor provided deficient care in connection with five inmate deaths since first winning a county contract in mid-2011. The families of four of those inmates are suing Armor and the county in federal court.

The commission also is still probing the six Nassau jail custody deaths that have happened this year.

Two weeks ago, a committee of Nassau Legislature’s approved a $45,000 contract for a health monitor to supervise Armor’s performance and contract compliance. Mangano’s administration proposed the oversight in reaction to Schneiderman’s lawsuit as the county continues to seek a new jail medical vendor. Armor said in August it wouldn’t bid for the new contract after the county released a request for proposals in March.


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