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Nassau County seeks proposals for jail medical care

Nassau County has released a request for proposals for a vendor to provide health services at its jail — a move that comes amid intense scrutiny of the East Meadow facility’s current medical provider after a series of inmate deaths.

A spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano provided a copy of the document Friday and confirmed it was released Thursday, but wouldn’t answer questions about it.

It’s unclear whether Mangano’s administration intends for a new contract to start before or after the contract of Armor Correctional Health Services expires in mid-2017.

An Armor spokeswoman said Friday the company plans to put in a bid to the new RFP.

The state Commission of Correction has found Armor has a pattern of neglectful inmate care, and provided inadequate care in the deaths of four Nassau inmates since first winning a county contract in mid-2011.

Armor’s contract says the county can end the agreement “for any reason” upon 30 days’ written notice, for “cause” immediately upon the contractor’s receipt of written notice, and upon written agreement of both parties. The county has renewed Armor’s contract twice, including in June.

The state commission found in September that the 2014 deaths of two jail inmates “may have been prevented,” and ordered Nassau’s legislature to investigate Armor.

After those state findings, Mangano’s administration said a legal review showed Armor’s contract couldn’t be canceled “without subjecting taxpayers to significant liability as the allegations have not been substantiated to date.”

But the administration also said they had begun drafting a new RFP.

Armor, which is currently facing federal lawsuits from families of four inmates who died in Nassau custody, has defended its standard of care.

The company is also the target of an investigation by the state attorney general’s office.

But Armor spokeswoman Yeleny Suarez said in a statement Friday the company expected an RFP “as this is standard procedure when all contract extensions have expired.”

“We do plan to bid,” she added, saying statewide statistics would show the Sheriff’s Department “outperforms medical state averages both in quality and cost of service.”

“Furthermore,” Suarez added, “it would be a disservice to our dedicated and skilled employees if we did not proceed with a response to the RFP.”

Democrats in the county’s legislature recently demanded an end to Armor’s contract and asked the Department of Justice to investigate what they called a crisis involving poor jail medical care.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Capt. Michael Golio said the department had no comment Friday other than to confirm that an RFP was out.

Brian Sullivan, head of the correction officers’ union, called it “obvious” that “change must be made here with regard to the jail’s health care provider.”

Legis. Laura Curran, the ranking Democrat on the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, said “any and all RFP responses — including Armor’s” would be reviewed to “ensure the county chooses a vendor that guarantees ironclad accountability.”

A spokeswoman for the legislature’s presiding officer, Republican Norma Gonsalves, declined to comment.

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