Two weeks ago, the Sheriff’s Office received three bids from correctional health-care providers to possibly replace Corizon Health Inc. — which has overseen medical care for 20 years in the Santa Barbara County Jail — when its contract expires next spring. Last fall, the county supervisors ordered the sheriff to open a bidding process after mental-health advocates revealed a grim picture of health care in jail over the course of several hearings.
Corizon, which is widely reputed to be the country’s largest provider and has been sued countless times nationwide, applied to renew its contract. The other bids came from California Forensic Medical Group — the state’s largest provider and recently part of a $1 million settlement in Santa Cruz after an inmate committed suicide behind bars — and Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions. Both have sought to replace Corizon as other sheriffs’ departments faced expiring contracts. According to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover, the winning bid will go before the Board of Supervisors in late November or early December.
Last week, the county supervisors approved the hiring of six more full-time mental- health nurses and extended the contract psychiatrist’s hours. These new staffers will cost the county’s contingency fund $265,000 for the remaining six months that the contract is in place with Corizon.