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Nassau jail to get medical care monitor in wake of AG lawsuit

Nassau County will hire a correctional health care

Nassau County will hire a correctional health care monitor after a state attorney general's office lawsuit accused the current vendor at the jail, above, of providing inmates with insufficient treatment. Photo Credit: FlyingDogPhotos.com / Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration plans to hire a “correctional health care monitor” after a lawsuit from the state attorney general’s office accused the jail’s inmate medical care vendor of a pattern of deficient treatment.

County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a statement Tuesday that officials will look to retain such a supervisor until the county selects a vendor for a new jail medical contract following its request for bids in March.

But some Democrats in the county Legislature said hiring a monitor is not enough. They said the contract of jail medical vendor Armor Correctional Health Services must be revoked — an action they’ve been demanding for months.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s lawsuit against Armor, filed Monday following a series of inmate custody deaths after the vendor’s contract began in 2011, noted county officials have never financially penalized Armor for not meeting contract performance standards — many based on U.S. Department of Justice requirements.

That happened despite Armor’s “serial failings” and contract terms setting specific fines for missed benchmarks, Schneiderman’s office said.

The lawsuit also noted that while Armor didn’t do enough audits, failed about half of its self-audits, and didn’t issue performance reviews required by contract, Nassau still renewed Armor’s contract twice — once in 2013 and again in 2015.

Armor, a Florida-based company whose contract expires in mid-2017, has defended its operations and pledged to vigorously fight the state attorney general’s claims.

“It is the county and sheriff’s office decision to hire a correctional health care monitor,” Armor spokeswoman Teresa Estefan said in a statement Tuesday. “Armor will certainly work diligently with any individual to further enhance patient care.”

Mangano’s administration also said Tuesday in reaction to Schneiderman’s lawsuit that county officials have “been working with the attorney general’s office to review Armor health care operations” at the jail.

Foskey’s statement added that the administration already had hired a commissioner of corrections and the county Health Department had assigned a registered nurse to the jail in reaction to criticisms of Armor’s care.

Administration officials also said the type of monitor they’re looking to hire at the jail would typically be a doctor, and they’d reached out to Schneiderman’s office and professionals in the corrections health services field seeking personnel recommendations.

Armor’s contract says the county can end the vendor’s current agreement for any reason upon a month’s written notice, for “cause” immediately upon Armor’s receipt of written notice, and upon written agreement of both parties.

But after state officials found last year that two 2014 inmate deaths “may have been prevented,” Mangano’s administration decided Armor’s contract couldn’t be canceled “without subjecting taxpayers to significant liability as the allegations have not been substantiated to date.”

However, county Democratic party leaders said Tuesday that the seriousness of the state attorney general’s allegations demands swift action be taken to protect the county against further liability.

“We’ve been calling for their contract to be revoked. . . . Nothing has happened,” Legislative minority leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said of Armor. “Anything short of revoking Armor’s contract and bringing in a temporary solution that’s going to be monitored by the state is not going to be acceptable.”

Abrahams called for the cancellation of Armor’s contract in the next 30 days, saying Mangano “needs to put together a plan . . . and bring in a new entity.”

He added: “From our standpoint, if he can’t do it, we’ll continue to press the U.S. Department of Justice and the state attorney general to help get it done.”

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) also called for terminating Armor’s contract as well as speeding up the process of selecting a new inmate health care vendor.

“I think that the time has passed for an opportunity for Armor to continue with supervision . . . ,” she said. “The county should be moving forward.”

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