August 28, 2009
Correctional Health Services, the agency charged with providing health care to nearly 10,000 inmates in county custody, submitted an application for accreditation this week with the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare.
The same agency stripped the county's jails of accreditation in January, saying the facilities failed to meet federal standards for care. The agency also alleged that county officials gave the accrediting group inaccurate information about the county's efforts to reform health care in the jails.
County administrators plan to bring in a separate team of consultants before the end of the year to inspect health care offered to inmates in anticipation of the accrediting group.
The county still is negotiating with the assessment team, but County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said the outside evaluation team should cost less than $65,000.
"It's a check-and-balance. They bring in all the best policies from around the
," she said of the consultants. "And it's more important if you get litigated against." A spike in litigation was exactly what jail health-care experts predicted when U.S. lost its accreditation. A trio of lawsuits filed in the past two months have cited the loss. Maricopa County
County officials repeatedly have been told that Correctional Health Services operations are inadequate and pose a danger to inmates.
Over the past 10 years, faced with hundreds of lawsuits, a federal court order and the loss of accreditation, the Board of Supervisors has paid more than $250,000 to consultants to find solutions to improve care.
Since 1998, the county has paid $13 million in legal fees, settlements and jury verdicts to inmates and their families for injury and death claims against the Correctional Health Services.County administrators have contended that the jails always met national standards and the decision to pull accreditation was based on faulty information.