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State probes jail medical service provider

ALBANY -- The state attorney general's office has confirmed it is investigating a company that has become New York's largest private contract provider of jail medical services.

The state Commission of Correction has issued critical reports about nine inmate deaths between 2009 and 2011 at county jails that contract with Correctional Medical Care Inc., the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin reported.

The company, based in Blue Bell, Pa., has said it uses some of the most qualified and dedicated licensed medical personnel in New York State to provide inmate health services in a cost-effective manner.

Dr. Nazif Chowdhury, CMC's director of utilization management and an associate professor of medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, said inmates are cared for just as any other medical patients would be, but the care can be complicated by untreated medical and mental-health problems often brought to the facility.

Yet reports by the state Commission of Correction's Medical Review Board have found some level of fault with CMC in the nine inmate deaths. In some cases, it has also placed partial blame on correction officers for mistakes.

The Medical Review Board has blamed CMC for failing to follow its own drug withdrawal and detoxification policies, for ignoring signs of mental illness and for failing to treat some illnesses, the Press and Sun-Bulletin reported. The board recommended county-level inquiries to decide if CMC is to continue to provide services at the upstate Broome, Tioga and Dutchess county jails.

CMC has provided medical services at the Broome County jail since 2006 under contracts worth more than $18 million through the end of 2013. Sheriff David Harder told the newspaper he was satisfied with CMC's track record and noted few inmate complaints.

Spokespeople from the state attorney general's office and the education department, which oversees medical licensing, confirmed that CMC was the subject of an inquiry but declined to give further details.

Jails in 15 of New York's 62 counties use contracted medical providers, and 11 of those contracts are held by CMC.

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