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Vt. prisons will have a new medical contractor July 1. The company is accused of providing inadequate care

A prison exterior with hills in the background.
Erica Heilman
Vermont Public File
Under the new three-year contract, Wellpath will be paid $33,799,902 a year — about $13 million more than the state has been paying VitalCore Health Strategies, its current medical services provider.

The Vermont Department of Corrections announced Tuesday that Wellpath LLC, the country’s largest prison health care provider, will soon take over medical services in the state's prisons.

Wellpath provides health services for nearly 300,000 people in prisons, civil commitment centers and residential treatment facilities across 36 states, according to their website. The Nashville-based company was formerly called Correct Care Solutions; the name changed in 2018 after it was acquired by H.I.G Capital, a private equity firm. The new company was expectedto bring in about $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

Vermont previously contracted with Wellpath, when it was called Correct Care Solutions, from 2010 to 2015, according to DOC.

“We are thrilled to once again partner with the Vermont DOC to provide comprehensive medical and mental health care to the roughly 1,300 incarcerated individuals across the state,” said Ben Slocum, CEO of Wellpath in a written statement.

But Wellpath has faced numerous accusations of providing inadequate health care, including instances in other New England states.

A 2021 report in Maine, by the NAACP’s Maine State Prison chapter, alleged Wellpath failed to adequately treat heat conditions, infections and diabetes among the state’s incarcerated population, according to Maine Public.

Last year in Massachusetts, the Disability Law Center found that workers at the Bridgewater State Hospital used unlawful chemical restraints and seclusion on people with severe mental illness, according to WBUR. The hospital houses people with mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system, and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections contracted Wellpath to provide services at the hospital.

Wellpath didn't respond to a request for comment.

More from Vermont Public: Vermont State Police investigating another death at Southern State Correctional Facility

The Vermont Department of Corrections said it was aware of the various allegations against Wellpath. But Commissioner Nick Deml said in an interview there are few companies that provide health care in prisons.

“In Wellpath, we found a partner who has a similar commitment to really quality control, quality improvement and continuously getting better at what we're doing,” Deml said. “That's how our department approaches it — knowing that, you know, we are human, there's going to be human error, we need to minimize that, learn from it, do the best that we can moving forward.”

Under the new three-year contract, which goes into effect on July 1, Wellpath will be paid $33,799,902 a year — about $13 million more than the state has been paying VitalCore Health Strategies, its current medical services provider.

“That's a reflection of the increased cost in health care staff,” Deml said. “Obviously, that workforce is under a lot of pressure, and costs are going up there.”

Wellpath will take over medical services at a time when there’s been an uptick in deaths at Vermont prisons. Six incarcerated people have died so far this year. Last year, nine people died in Vermont prisons, which was the highest number in any of the past five years.

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Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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