Clark County signed off on a three-year contract, worth at least $17 million, with a for-profit health care provider at its county jail and juvenile facility in Vancouver.
County councilors agreed Tuesday to pay Tennessee-based WellPath LLC $5.87 million during the first year, with increases between 4% and 8% for each of the next two years.
WellPath is facing at least four active wrongful death cases in Oregon, according to federal court records.
An investigation by OPB, the Northwest News Network and KUOW found 18 deaths in the Clark County Jail from 2008-2018. Of those, 15 were suicides.
WellPath operates in prisons and jails in 36 states, including six correctional facilities in Washington and seven in Oregon. The company was formerly known as Correct Care Solutions.
Last year, the company’s former CEO, Gerard “Jerry” Boyle was sentenced to three years in federal prison for mail fraud after engaging in a bribery scheme with the former sheriff of Norfolk County, Virginia.
Clark County staff noted the new contract was more expensive than its previous one with NaphCare Inc., another private correctional health care provider.
“WellPath is bringing increased mental health services in the form of a Mental Health Coordinator who will work with Clark County Jail Reentry personnel to improve successful release into the community and reduce recidivism,” county staff stated in their report.
It was also the only company to bid on the county’s request for proposals that was deemed “appropriate,” according to the staff report.
Jails are often a county’s single greatest expense. Legally, they are required to provide adequate health care for those in custody, but are barred from billing Medicaid and Medicare for services.