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News / Health / Clark County Health

Clark County gets new medical vendor for jail, juvenile services

Tennessee-based Wellpath to provide services

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 1, 2023, 6:20pm

With the county’s previous contract set to expire, the Clark County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a new three-year medical vendor contract for the jail and juvenile services.

The contract was awarded to Nashville, Tenn.-based Wellpath and went into effect Wednesday.

Under the terms of the contract, base compensation for the first year is $5.87 million. Each subsequent year is subject to a 4 percent to 8 percent increase based on Labor and Industries’ Consumer Price Index.

Amber Emery, deputy county manager, said the county’s search for a new vendor began in October with a request for proposals. By the Dec. 14 closing date, only one vendor had responded.

“Our timeline was extremely tight. It did start in the summer with the sheriff’s office letting Kathleen (Otto) and I know we need to look into a different medical vendor,” Emery told the council.

While medical services are provided by public health staff at some jails, Clark County Jail Cmdr. Kimberly Beltran said that is not currently an option for the county.

“We have approached the health department at various times to try to deprivatize the medical services,” Beltran said. “They provide for us support with infection control and things like that, so we are in partnership with the health department.”

Beltran noted that previous grants allowed Clark County to offer opioid addiction treatment to inmates. She said the county is now pursuing a new grant in hopes of opening the first jail-based opioid treatment program in the state. She said the contract includes an option to increase mental health services.

The county had a previous medical vendor contract with Wellpath, then known as Correct Care Solutions, which ended in 2018. Beltran said the company had some organizational changes in 2018 “which greatly changed the structure, the administration, the services they provided. They have shown some innovative services and some improvements and successes, and we were excited about that.”

Councilor Michelle Belkot asked if any options for canceling the contract were included should there be performance issues. Beltran said both the county and Wellpath can cancel prior to the end of the three years.

One area yet to be resolved is who will monitor the contract to ensure that performance standards are being met. The county’s previous effort to find an outside contract monitor failed to receive any responses. Beltran said the county will oversee the contract until another request for proposals for a monitor is issued and filled.

Councilor Gary Medvigy said the contract reflects some of the problems the county has been wrangling with for years.

“Every year, we struggle with getting the best health care plans for our own employees. (The cost of) health care is through the roof,” he said. “With Jail Services, and we’ve been struggling with that particularly over the last few contracts, there just aren’t providers out there for much the same reason.”

Medvigy said providers often simply can’t deliver needed services as costs continue to rise.

“We’re going to do the best we can. And we have great plans for our Jail Services,” he said. “I’m hoping to be a model county for mental health care, for restoration services, for reentry services.”

To watch the full meeting, go to www.cvtv.org.