LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing the company that provides medical and mental health care for the Nassau County Correctional Center on Long Island, accusing the firm, Armor Correctional Health Services of providing “inadequate care of inmates”.
Of the 12 prisoners who have died since Armor was awarded the contract at the Nassau County jail in 2011, Schneiderman cites a state report that blamed 5 of those deaths on inadequate medical care.
Armor Correctional Health Services provided similar health care services for the Niagara County Jail and Schneiderman filed the lawsuit with the intent of banning Armor from doing any future business in New York. Armor pulled out of Niagara County late last year.
Starting in 2012, Armor Correctional Health Services took over medical and mental health services at the Niagara County Jail, shortly after the Niagara County Office of Mental Health pulled its services from the jail.
Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour, whose office operates the jail, said the county had no choice but to privatize those health services.
“We have become the dumping ground for mental health because the state has closed facilities all over New York State. Therefore, a guy in the streets doing something crazy that maybe is a disorderly conduct–where he should be getting mental health. –he is getting locked up in jail.”
Within two weeks after Armor Health took control of medical care at the county Jail, two inmates died, and state officials would later blame quality of care for their passing. The report by the State Commission of Correction, described Armor’s care of the prisoners as “grossly incompetent and inadequate”. In 2014, a female inmate, with a history of drug use hanged herself.
The families of all three inmates sued Armor, but under the conditions of their contract, Niagara County was indemnified from those civil actions. One of the lawsuits has been settled.
Armor pulled out of Niagara County last year, a second health care provider only lasted a few months, and now county officials are about to sign on the third private contractor in 4 years.
Niagara Legislator Jason Zona has been opposed to outsourcing county services, but said their doesn’t seem to be any desire by county health workers or their union to go back into the jail.
“The county isn’t going to be interested in going back into this business. We ended it now 4 years ago. We have to find a company and pay to do that.”
In Erie County, the Health Department is responsible for medical services at the Holding Center and the Correctional Facility in Alden, provided by a 78-person Correctional Health unit, that is on site at both locations 24 hours a day.
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said there is too much at stake, “These are very important services and we want to make sure that we have control of the quality and the costs, so we decided to keep that in house.”
Initially Niagara County officials said outsourcing those health services at the jail saved about $800,000 a year, but as they have had to hire new companies, the cost is going up.
County lawmakers are holding emergency meetings in two weeks to approve a contractor for the latest health services provider at the county jail–their third contractor in 4 years to administer those services.