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Nassau County forms team to examine inmate health care

Nassau County Correctional Facility is seen on Friday,

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

A team of public health officials will review medical treatment at Nassau County’s jail, according to County Executive Edward Mangano, whose office announced the plan Tuesday in the wake of recent criticism of the facility’s private health care provider after a series of inmate deaths.

Mangano has asked the county’s health commissioner to form the team and the county’s director of mental health will also serve on the panel that will be “charged with performing a health care assessment” at the East Meadow facility, said Mangano’s spokesman, Brian Nevin.

The plan became public a day after Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) sent a letter to Mangano asking him to appoint a commissioner of correction to oversee the jail’s health care “to address the ongoing health care crisis” involving “apparently incompetent treatment” provided by vendor Armor Correctional Health Services.

Bynoe first pitched the idea earlier this month as part an Armor “exit strategy” when Democratic county legislators stood in front of the jail to call for an end to the vendor’s contract and to appeal to federal officials to investigate what they called an “ongoing civil rights crisis” involving inadequate medical care.

Mangano’s office also said in a prepared statement Tuesday that the county is awaiting the findings of the state attorney general’s office — which is probing Armor’s practices — and added that the county will soon issue a new request for proposals for inmate health care services.

The state Commission of Correction has found Armor has a pattern of neglectful inmate care. In particular, the jail oversight agency found the Miami-based vendor provided inadequate care in the deaths of four Nassau inmates since winning its first county contract in mid-2011.

The agency also found last year that two of those inmate deaths, which occurred in 2014, “may have been prevented.”

Those findings had prompted Mangano’s administration to say that a legal review had found that Armor’s contract — just renewed in June — couldn’t be canceled “without subjecting taxpayers to significant liability as the allegations have not been substantiated to date.”

Yeleny Suarez, a spokeswoman for Armor, said Tuesday that the company expected an RFP to be issued before the current contract expires in May 2017.

“It is the County and Sheriff’s Office decision to appoint a contract monitor but Armor will certainly work diligently with any individual whose goal is to enhance patient care,” she added in her prepared statement.

Frank Moroney, a spokesman for the Legislature’s Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), said Tuesday that Gonsalves was “pleased to hear” about the health care team. He added: “We look forward to seeing the results of that review.”.

Bynoe said she spoke to Mangano on Tuesday and that she approved of his plans for the team. But she said she stressed to him that a commissioner of correction is still needed.

“I am imploring the county to move forward … in the interest of decency and order,” she said.

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