9 Investigates

Company to take on medical care at Lake County Jail after drug withdrawal-related deaths

9 Investigates learned which company will take over medical services at the Lake County Jail after a year of extensive coverage by Channel 9 investigative reporter, Karla Ray.
Jail officials said that by July 1, Tennessee-based Wellpath will replace Armor Correctional Health Services.
9 Investigates reported on the death of inmate James Anglin in February 2018, and discovered that Anglin's request for help as he suffered through drug withdrawal were ignored by a nurse at Armor Correctional Health Services in Lake County. 
Channel 9 then reported that Armor Correctional staff violated the company’s action plan months later, failing to help monitor inmate Tiffany Allen, who also was going through withdrawal. Allen took her own life when she should have been monitored, investigators said.
9 Investigates learned Monday that Wellpath has a history of lawsuits and has been accused of inadequate care.
“We knew that something needed to be done, because we just didn't feel confident with the level of health care they were providing at the time,” Lake County Sheriff's Office representative John Herrell said. 
Herrell said Wellpath won the bid based on a focus on treating what experts said are the top health issues for inmates: mental health and opioid treatment.
“They had a very robust plan of action,” Herrell said.


On the company’s website, Wellpath states it was born out of the joining of two other companies: Correct Care Solutions and Correctional Medical Group. 
Wellpath boasts providing medical and behavioral health at nearly 400 county jails and nearly 150 state and federal prisons.
9 Investigates searched federal court records and found the two companies have been accused of inadequate care in dozens of lawsuits, much like Armor Correctional. 
When asked about the company’s litigation history, a Wellpath representative said: “Measuring the quality of care Wellpath delivers for our patients with the number of lawsuits filed against us is misleading. Over 90% of the lawsuits that are filed against Wellpath are dismissed without any sort of payment. Furthermore, the notion that settling a lawsuit is an admission of liability is inaccurate. The decision to settle a case is a business decision that is influenced by many factors, including the cost of further litigation, insurance coverage issues and client relationships.”
Herrell said considering the vulnerability of the population, any company is bound to face challenges.
“In all fairness to Armor, the issues they were dealing with are not unique to Armor.  These are challenges brought about by this opioid crisis,” Herrell said.
Herrell said a major difference with Wellpath is that a full-time registered nurse will screen every inmate upon intake to determine whether they need to be monitored under detox protocol. 
Herrell said the company will cost taxpayers more than Armor Correctional, but the details on the cost of the contract are still being reviewed before going up for a vote by county commissioners.
Wellpath’s representative also said: “Our team is focused on making sure that we fulfill our mission to improve the health outcomes of our patients. Last year, we treated 2 million patients and answered more than 3 million sick calls nationwide."

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.