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With more than $1 billion at stake, Missouri seeking bidders for prisoner health care

With more than $1 billion at stake, Missouri seeking bidders for prisoner health care

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Training correctional officers for Missouri prisons

Correctional officer trainees Kasey Crisman, Ashley Treiber and Haley Sharrow hitch a ride back to their cars after they passed shotgun testing March 25, 2019, at the gun range next to the Northeast Correctional Center (in the background) in Bowling Green, Mo. All trainees had to pass the shooting proficiency test before they could become correctional officers. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — In a contract that could be worth over $1 billion in taxpayer funds, Gov. Mike Parson’s administration is seeking companies to run Missouri’s prison health care program.

Documents reviewed by the Post-Dispatch show the state is looking to sign a four-year contract with an option of four one-year renewals. Under current rates, that would put the state on track to pay the private vendor more than $1 billion over the life of the contract.

Companies seeking the contract have begun lining up Jefferson City lobbying firms to navigate the bidding process.

Virginia-based Centurion, which provides prison health care in 17 states, hired the Gamble and Schlemeier lobbying firm on July 15. They have 10 registered lobbyists assigned to Centurion, which is a subsidiary of Clayton-based Centene Corp.

Pennsylvania-based Wexford Health Sources, which has provided health services in Illinois prisons, lined up lobbyists David Winton and Jessica Petrie on Aug. 18

And Corizon Health, which has held the contract to provide services at Missouri Department of Corrections facilities for 22 years, has lobbyists Richard McIntosh and David McCracken on board.

Corizon, the nation’s biggest for-profit correctional health care provider, last year received more than $147 million for its work in Missouri.

The possible change in companies comes as nurses who work in the prison filed a lawsuit last year alleging they are owed potentially millions of dollars in back pay by either the state or Corizon.

The case mirrors one in which a Cole County jury found that 13,000 current and former correctional officers were owed $113.7 million because the state wasn’t paying them when they entered a prison’s security envelope, even though they were expected to respond to incidents once inside.

The bill for that case has grown by at least $12 million while the state appeals.

In addition to standard medical care, Corizon also provides dental, behavioral health and pharmacy services to the state’s 20 prisons.

In June, the state reported 28,020 prisoners behind bars, compared with 32,400 in June 2017.

Corizon was established in 2011 when privately held Valitás Health Services Inc., the Creve Coeur-based parent of Correctional Medical Services Inc., acquired America Service Group Inc., a Tennessee-based provider of prison health services.

With corporate headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee, Corizon touts Creve Coeur as home to its operational headquarters.

Kurt Erickson • 573-556-6181 @KurtEricksonPD on Twitter kerickson@post-dispatch.com

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