Corizon executive Harold Orr (center)

Paul Wellman

Corizon executive Harold Orr (center)

Jail Health Care Under Fire

Supervisors Postpone Renewing $10 Million Contract

Facing a contract expiration date on June 30, the Santa Barbara supervisors unanimously voted not to renew a roughly $10 million, two-year contract with Corizon Health Inc., a medical and mental-health provider at the County Jail and Probation Department that has provoked serious controversy in the county and across the nation.

The central issue for the supes was the scarcity of information about Corizon’s current contract and recent performance data. “I don’t know how we’re expected to approve a contract that we haven’t even seen,” Supervisor Doreen Farr told Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Laz Salinas, who presented to the board. Relations between the supervisors and the Sheriff’s Office have grown prickly in recent months over budget issues for the proposed North County Jail.

Corizon recently came under fire in New York City, where officials decided this month to terminate their contract with the for-profit company at the end of the year after an investigation revealed employees might have contributed to the death of a mentally ill inmate. In the County Jail, about 10 Corizon employees work during peak hours (and a handful during late hours) to deliver services to inmates after they are booked. But the exact percentage of inmates who are screened in a timely manner and then receive treatment or pharmaceuticals remained unanswered on Tuesday. A number of people have complained to the supervisors that meds are not provided to inmates.

Corizon exec Harold Orr said the only study his company completed was in Alameda County, where they found 98.2 percent of written orders were given to inmates in a timely manner. “I think it’s consistent through all of our contracts,” he said. Salinas later added that Sheriff personnel “meet monthly if not weekly to make sure Corizon is meeting our metrics.” But the supervisors weren’t sold and opted — with Corizon’s consent — to extend the existing contract for 120 days. Everyone will return to the board on August 25, when a detailed evaluation will be presented.

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