Kitsap County is looking for a new company to provide medical services to jail inmates, officials said during a public meeting Wednesday.
The change in medical contractors follows an 11-year relationship that has seen a few lawsuits filed against the county.
Correct Care Solutions, formerly known as Conmed, has provided assessments, physical and mental health treatment, prescription drugs and other services to people held in Kitsap County jail since 2007. Its contract is up at the end of this year, and the company has declined to submit a bid to renew it, officials said.
In 2014, a man filed a lawsuit naming both Conmed and the county as defendants, alleging “deliberate indifference” by medical providers while incarcerated in 2011. Later that year, a murder trial for a mentally ill man was declared a mistrial after a judge said defendant Michael Pierce was not given prescribed psychiatric medication. And in 2016, the family of a heroin-addicted woman who died in custody sued the county and CCS, alleging mismanagement on the part of medical staff leading to her death.
Two companies have submitted proposals to be the new contractor, Sheriff Gary Simpson said. The companies were not named, but one is a nonprofit. The bids are for $3.1 million and $3.7 million annually — figures that are higher than the county currently pays — but negotiations are ongoing.
Simpson said the new contract will include requirement updates to make sure services provided by the contractor are in line with today’s standards.
“Services for detoxification and opioid overdoses and treatments have changed. Mental health practices have changed,” he said. “The RFP addresses those changes.”
“We are totally responsible for the welfare of these people when they are in our custody,” he added.
The current contract expires December 31, so the county will be looking to act quickly.
“The challenge is trying to get this accomplished by the end of the year,” Simpson said. He added it would be possible to extend the current contract, but it would come at a cost.
A new medical contractor is not the only possible update coming to the county jail.
Simpson is lobbying the Board of Commissioners to establish a new position for an auditor to oversee the activities of the medical provider. That person would represent the county’s interests in dealing with the contractor.
“It’s something I’m begging to have happen,” he said. “We need to have someone that’s going to be auditing the practices of the provider on behalf of the sheriff’s office and the county, so we know that what they’re doing is what we want them to be doing.”