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Nassau and prospective jail medical provider end talks, officials say

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow on June 20, 2016. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin / Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration has ended talks with the for-profit company it was seeking to hire to provide inmate health care at the jail after a disagreement over financial terms.

Charles Ribando, the deputy county executive for public safety, said Friday officials notified Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions earlier this week that the county wouldn’t be able to meet the company’s terms.

A recent Newsday story showed CCS is the target of more than 145 federal lawsuits involving allegations of negligent inmate care, including more than two dozen lawsuits linked to inmate deaths.

The litigation raised concerns among some local officials who questioned whether the vendor could continue what critics say has been a culture at Nassau’s jail of cutting corners on inmate care to save money.

Ribando said talks with CCS, which started around October, broke down over how much the company would pay for the treatment of inmates who needed care outside the jail. He said CCS wanted to add $4.7 million to the top of what was going to be an annual contract of about $11.3 million.

A CCS spokesman declined to comment Friday.

Mangano officials said last year they wanted to replace current for-profit vendor Armor Correctional Health Services at the start of 2017. They picked CCS as the lowest qualified bidder after getting three contract bids.

Ribando said the administration plans to issue a new request for proposals in the next two weeks, and aims to attract interest from local hospitals, including Nassau University Medical Center and Northwell Health, along with any other bidders. He said the county was not striving to necessarily move away from hiring a for-profit vendor.

In the meantime, Ribando said officials planned to negotiate with Armor, if necessary, to stay on beyond the end of its contract in May on a month-to-month basis until a new vendor takes over. Armor didn’t immediately comment Friday.

“We’re hopeful that we can hold on to them until we can get a new provider. . . . They understand and they’re agreeable that they need to help us with transitioning. . . . I don’t think that they would just walk off the job,” Ribando said.

Armor’s jail tenure has been marked by controversy. The state Commission of Correction found the company provided inadequate care linked to the deaths of at least five inmates since the vendor first won a Nassau contract in mid-2011. Last year, Armor settled a lawsuit State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office brought alleging inmate treatment deficiencies by paying a $350,000 fine, agreeing to a three-year ban in New York and admitting no wrongdoing.

Armor and the county also are fighting four federal lawsuits from families of Nassau inmates who died in jail custody.

Democratic Nassau County Legis. Kevan Abrahams, the minority party’s leader, said he has concerns about Armor staying on longer but is pleased CCS is out of consideration.

“I thought they were going to be possibly worse than Armor,” he said. “Hopefully now we’ll be able to really do a wide RFP and . . . bring in someone with a much better track record.”

Abrahams said the county should move away from hiring a for-profit vendor, a model he says doesn’t work in Nassau.

Correction union leader Brian Sullivan said he was “happy to see that this company that has tons of problems, mirroring Armor, is out of the running,” and it would be “the smart thing” for the county to again enlist nearby NUMC for inmate care.

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