At a meeting last Thursday, the Dane County Board of Supervisors approved a contract to provide healthcare services to Dane County Jail Residents. This contract will be the third time Dane County works with Wellpath, one of the largest for-profit healthcare providers for prisoners in the country.
Dane County Board Supervisor Richelle Andrae, was one of two sponsors for the proposed contract.
“This is a five year contract that will provide medical services for residents of the Dane County Jail. Wellpath is currently our contractor for these services, so this essentially provides that contracture with a five year contract moving forward in January for those services,” says Andrae.
The new contract promises to provide jail residents with necessary medical services like off-site emergency care and mental health support. The contract will cost a little more than 38 million dollars over a five-year term, expiring on December 31, 2027.
The contract was ultimately approved, with 28 voting to approve it and 8 voting not to with one supervisor excused.
Some supervisors who voted against approving the contract, like Supervisor Tim Kiefer, argue that contracts like these should not be given to a for-profit company like Wellpath. Kiefer points to the fact that the previous CEO of Wellpath was convicted of attempting to bribe a sheriff in Virginia to sign a contract with the company.
“So this is not the kind of corporation that Dane County should be doing business with and I think we should have looked for a different vendor. And I think that long term, the county should be looking for a non-profit model for providing healthcare in the jail, not contracting out to a for-profit corporation,” says Kiefer.
Wellpath and other for-profit healthcare companies have also been accused of delaying healthcare services to jail residents. In 2021 jail resident Jimmy Joshua had to wait 16 hours before receiving medical treatment after his hip was broken in an altercation with Dane County Jail deputies. While waiting to receive care, Joshua was stripped and restrained in an isolation cell. He was eventually taken to the hospital, where he stayed for eight days after needing surgery to place a plate and eight screws in his hip.
During the meeting, Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett addressed concerns about Wellpath’s ability to provide effective care to jail residents.
“Again it was taken into consideration but there were no outstanding incidents or frequencies that we assessed that would play a significant role in their ability to care for the residents of our facility,” says Barrett.
Supervisor Andrae says that many of the concerns regarding Wellpath’s ability to care for jail residents comes down to staffing levels. But she pointed out that these concerns were addressed in the new contract.
“There are additional provisions in the contract, that they would have to not be paid or provide penalties if they don’t meet those staffing levels which are new to this contract.”
Andrae also added that although the county is working with a for-profit company, she hopes to work with more local organizations to provide healthcare to jail residents in the future.
“I’m hoping that we could at least have that proactive conversation over the next few years with local health systems and hospitals to see if we could do anything to entice a partnership with them,” says Andrae.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Supervisor Kiefer. We apologize for the error.