by Jayson Hawkins
March 2020 brought sweeping changes to the way people lived and worked as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country. Prisons, where social distancing was often difficult or impossible to practice, proved especially vulnerable to COVID-19, yet the Delaware Department of Correction pushed ahead with a switch to a new health-care provider. Centurion of Delaware LLC accepted responsibility for the medical and behavioral health care of the state’s prisoners effective April 1.
“It’s tough enough to transition to a new medical and behavioral health [provider] in 30 days,” commented Claire DeMatteis, Delaware DOC commissioner, “but doing so in the middle of a health pandemic is remarkable.”
The sudden switch reflects a loss of confidence in the state’s previous provider, Connections Community Support Programs, which agreed to void its annual $60 million contract three months ahead of schedule. Connections was facing lawsuits from two hospital systems after amassing nearly $10 million in unpaid bills for services provided to Delaware prisoners. Connections was also under investigation by the state Justice Department.
Jason Miller, spokesman for the Delaware DOC, said ample preparation and planning had taken place over March for the change in providers to proceed despite the COVID-19 outbreak. A statement from Centurion said the company had already been coordinating between local health departments and the DOC to handle the potential spread of the virus inside the state’s four prisons.
Centurion’s contract will cost Delaware taxpayers roughly $9 million more than the previous deal with Connections.
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