FARMINGTON – County officials are planning on putting the Franklin County Jail’s medical service contract back out to bid, after the current contractor has stated its intention to pull out of the existing contract.
The jail’s basic health care services for inmates is provided through Allied Resources for Correctional Health, Inc., who has contracts with correctional facilities across the state. ARCH has provided services to Franklin County jail for years, recently renewing their contract with the county in 2006.
This changed on July 30 however, when in a letter addressed to the commissioners, ARCH notified them that their intent was “stop work effective Aug. 31, 2008.”
While ARCH did have some unspecific complaints about the amount of cooperation they received from the jail personnel, a charge which Jail Administrator Sandra Collins says is not accurate, their biggest complaint appears to be financial.
“The current economic climate has compelled ARCH to re-examine its relationship with Franklin County,” said ARCH representative Douglas Jennings in a letter to commissioners.
Sheriff Dennis Pike was told in a June meeting with ARCH that the company had lost $600 a month covering Franklin County jail for 18 months. Pike has also noted that losing the mental health service contract, which is bid out separately from the medical service portion, to Evergreen Mental Health perhaps hurt ARCH’s profit margin.
“The bottom line is,” Pike told commissioners at today’s meeting, “it’s all about money. They have my sympathy, but a contract is a contract is a contract.”
ARCH’s costs increased in June 2008, when a federal Department of Justice Immigration and Customs Enforcement team conducted an inspection in June 2008, finding several problems with the health service being provided by ARCH. The changes requested in the I.C.E. team’s report typically centered around more oversight and evaluation from the company, which has required additional resources to fix.
“It’s obvious to me that they couldn’t hold up their end,” Commissioner Fred Hardy said. “And when they got called on it, they couldn’t afford to.”
ARCH has stated that they will cease their work on August 31. Collins and Pike have scheduled for the bids on the medical services contract to be submitted and reviewed on September 16. This leaves at least a two week gap in service if the new provider takes over immediately, which Pike noted was unlikely.
“I don’t want to be in a position to have no services and have to take some fairly expensive steps,” he said.
However, Collins noted that her review of the contract indicated that the opt out clause required 60 days of notice. August 31, the stated opt out date, would only be 30 days from the date on the letter sent to the commissioners. This is good for the county, as asking ARCH to stay beyond the required amount of time costs an additional 8 percent.
Pike and Collins have also indicated that, unlike previous years, two other companies may be interested in bidding on the medical service contract, possibly giving the jail another option. It is expected that the new contracts will likely reflect the current economic climate, and be more costly than ARCH’s. That company will also be alerted, and given a chance to bid, as they are a local service provider.