The new treaty promises improved mental health care in prisons

Ventura County Sheriff’s Office hopes to reduce recidivism and prevent suicide among prisoners local prisons under an enhanced prisoner health care contract approved last week.

The district board of supervisors unanimously approved the five-year agreement with the Nashville-based Wellpath on Tuesday after Assistant Sheriff Rob Davidson outlined planned improvements in patient care.

The contract, which takes effect on July 1, will cost $ 17.7 million in the first year. The pact is expected to reach about $ 18 million in the coming years to account for inflation.

Among the highlights:

  • The medical, dental and mental staff will increase to 74, which is about 25% more than last July. Fifteen of these jobs were added on Tuesday to the board’s budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on Friday. Additional staff is needed to operate a health unit at Todd Road Prison near Santa Paula, which is due to open early next year.
  • The availability of mental health services by licensed clinicians will increase from 16 o’clock per day to 24 hours at Ventura Main Prison and approximately double to 16 hours per day at Todd Road Prison.
  • Wellpath must pay penalties if it does not meet the standards of patient care specified in the contract. For example, the company must pay the county $ 1,500 each time a symptomatic patient is not evaluated by a mental health professional within 24 hours of arriving at the jail.
  • Individual counseling will be provided to prisoners, in line with the trend across the country.
  • The responsibility for the continuous monitoring of suicide prisoners will be transferred from the security staff to the medical staff.

Davidson said the contract represents a significant improvement in the quality of care for mentally ill prisoners.

Assistant Sheriff Rob Davidson shared details of the contract with Wellpath with the Board of Supervisors on June 21.  Wellpath President Kip Holman is sitting behind him.

“In our prisons, I’ll be honest, we take very, very good care,” he said on board. “Our challenge is in the area of ​​mental health. We really feel that the area of ​​mental health is what drives part of our relapse.”

Public Defender Claudia Bautista, whose office represents many of the inmates, said she supported the sheriff’s plan.

Will it work? I don’t know, “she said in an interview Friday. “What has been done in the past does not work.”

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