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Nassau County solicits bids from hospitals for inmate care

The Nassau County Jail in East Meadow on

The Nassau County Jail in East Meadow on June 20, 2016. Credit: / Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau County is again soliciting bids for the jail’s inmate health care contract, after releasing a request for proposals Wednesday that reflects a dramatic shift away from its current partnership with a private, for-profit medical company that sparked intense criticism amid a series of deaths in custody.

The RFP also comes as County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration scrambles to hire a vendor before the current agreement with the East Meadow facility’s embattled medical provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, ends May 31.

The new RFP — the second since last March — specifically solicits proposals for a two-year contract from only New York state-licensed hospitals or “any affiliate or subsidiary” to provide medical care for inmates at the jail.

Mangano’s spokesman, Brian Nevin, declined to comment Wednesday on the reasoning behind what will be a shift in the model of health care delivery, saying only that “the RFP speaks for itself.”

Mangano has repeatedly lauded the public-private partnership with Armor that began in mid-2011, citing savings of $7 million a year. But critics have countered that those savings will be offset by the potential cost of federal lawsuits that the families of four of the inmates who died in custody have filed against the county.

Legis. Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) Wednesday called the administration’s shift to a hospital-based model a positive step after the Armor contract, which he dubbed “a tremendous failure.”

“Putting medical care in the hands of hospital professionals is a move in the right direction, away from a model that appears to put profit above patients,” he said.

The RFP gives potential bidders a deadline of April 3 and says the county will award the contract April 21 — crunching what was initially advertised in the last RFP as a 5-month selection process into less than two months.

“I think it’s the smartest thing they could possibly do,” Nassau correction union leader Brian Sullivan said of the administration’s shift back toward seeking hospital-provided care for inmates. “The scrutiny obviously kicked some sense into them.”

The RFP comes after Mangano officials ended months of negotiations with private, for-profit medical provider Correct Care Solutions of Tennessee in mid-February, citing a financial disagreement.

Last September, Mangano officials picked CCS to replace Armor after choosing its bid from three that came from the first RFP. Newsday reported in January that CCS is fighting more than 145 federal lawsuits across the country linked to allegations of negligent inmate care, including more than two dozen involving deaths.

Mangano officials also said Wednesday that “negotiations with Armor are ongoing” in an effort to try and get a contract extension that would fill any gap before a new provider comes in. But an Armor spokeswoman countered that the company “is not in negotiations” for any extension.

The new RFP follows a torrent of controversy that has embroiled Armor after inmate deaths and other allegations of negligent inmate care. In October, Armor settled a lawsuit from the state attorney general’s office accusing it of deficient care. The lawsuit also pointed out Nassau officials never charged Armor financial penalties despite its “serial failings.”

The new request for bids also comes after a call in February from Democratic county lawmakers for the resignation of Sheriff Michael Sposato. They accused him of “gross mismanagement” of the jail, pointing in part to his defense of Armor after critical state findings. Sposato has defended his record.

The state Commission of Correction has found Armor provided inadequate care in the cases of five Nassau inmates who died in custody since the company first won a Nassau contract in mid-2011 — the year the company replaced Nassau University Medical Center as the jail’s inmate care provider.

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