Chatham County Manager, no decision on fines recommended for jail healthcare provider

We’ve been telling you about problems with medical care and controversial deaths at the Chatham County Detention Center in the past few years. In August, a new contract was awarded to a new healthcare provider. CorrectHealth (out of Atlanta) was given high marks and the expectations were high as well.

Chatham County Manager Lee Smith says things are going pretty well. “CorrectHealth came in under a lot of strings because we moved them in quickly so we gave three to five months for an opportunity to kind of get things up to speed and we knew it would not be perfect at first.”

However, a monitoring firm (Community Oriented Correctional Health Services or COCHS) hired by Chatham county says it’s definitely not perfect. COCHS wrote Smith in February saying that CorrectHealth had had enough time to establish better policies and to maintain (more) adequate staffing. It said CorrectHealth should be fined $3 million for basically not doing what it promised. Smith isn’t convinced yet that kind of fine is necessary or appropriate. “Well, I don’t feel like we have all the data,” he told me. “One thing we have to do is renew the contract and that’s coming up very quickly so I think those are negotiations we have with CorrectHealth.”

Smith says the letter addressed issues through the end of January. He says things like staffing are being continually addressed. “But we’re having probably monthly or every two weeks meetings with COCHS and also with CorrectHealth, so I feel like they’re doing the things we need them to do,” said Smith. “But it’s not perfect. One of the things I think we need more of is mental health,”

This week, Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher provided information on the death investigations of four inmates who died at the Detention Center in 2016. A fifth man died last month and that investigation is not complete. (Three inmates have died since CorrectHealth took over, one of those deaths was listed as a suicide.)

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