Connections out as prison health care provider


Connections is out as the health care vendor for the Delaware Department of Correction after recent controversies over its practices.

Commissioner Claire DeMatteis announced that her department and  Connections Community Support Programs, Inc. mutually agreed to release Connections as Delaware’s correctional medical and behavioral health services vendor three months before the expiration of  current contracts.

Health care is one of a number of issues DeMatteis has faced in the high-profile post. The lawyer and former aide to U.S. Sen. Joe Biden has made a series of moves aimed at dealing with long-running issues that came to a head with an uprising at the Vaughn Correctional Institution that left a prison guard dead.

The state has moved some prisoners to Pennsylvania. That state is seeing a decline in the number of inmates.

Centurion selected as service provider


The department also announced that after a  review process, it has selected Centurion of Delaware, LLC as a service provider. 

The department , through its Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, is responsible for contracting medical and behavioral health services in all of its prison and work release and violation of probation) facilities, as well as providing behavioral health services to individuals on supervised probation.

The DOC initiated Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for correctional medical care on November 14, 2019, and behavioral health care/substance abuse treatment on December 20th of that year.

Four firms submitted proposals in response to the request for proposals: Centurion, Connections, Corizon Health, and Wellpath.

After a  review process, the DOC has awarded both contracts to Centurion of Delaware, LLC.

Centurion provides healthcare services to state, county, and municipal correctional systems in 15 states, including neighboring Maryland and Pennsylvania. As part of its proposal and contract, Centurion will establish a Delaware office, led by a vice president dedicated to the Delaware correctional services.

“Centurion was the unanimous choice,” said  DeMatteis. “Centurion has deep experience providing quality medical care, behavioral healthcare, and substance abuse treatment services. It takes a special person to be a doctor, nurse, counselor or clinical support staff person in a prison, and Centurion has a demonstrated track record of investing in training for medical professionals and continuous process improvement.”

Transition underway

The transition will get underway immediately. Both three-year agreements with Centurion officially begin April 1, 2020, and can be followed by up to two optional two-year renewals. Vienna, VA-based Centurion, LLC is owned by Centene Corporation of St. Louis, MO, a multi-national company that provides integrated healthcare services to government-sponsored and commercial healthcare programs across all 50 U.S. states and abroad, and contracts with other healthcare and commercial organizations to provide a variety of specialty healthcare services.

The new healthcare services contracts are the latest steps taken by the department to improve Delaware’s correctional healthcare system.

Last summer, Commissioner DeMatteis initiated an independent review by ChristianaCare of its correctional health care system.

That review came with praise for the healthcare staff but also identified several areas for improvement, including an enhanced quality improvement program across all facilities. and, an improved electronic health records system.

Connections, one of Delaware’s largest nonprofits,  has provided DOC’s medical healthcare since 2014 and behavioral health services since 2012.

The company has a history of providing care to Delaware’s vulnerable residents since the 1980s through a wide variety of community programs, which will continue.

“It is with a heavy heart and mixed emotions that Connections Community Support Programs withdraws from this collaborative endeavor with DOC that has significantly benefited the citizens of Delaware for the last 8 years,” said Dr. William F. Northey, Jr., interim CEO. “By its nature providing quality care in correctional institutions is a significant challenge. The doctors, nurses, clinicians, and all of the staff give their best every day to provide patient care. It has been our pleasure to serve as the medical and behavioral health care provider to the DOC and an honor to have worked with such dedicated staff in both organizations.

Northerly was brought in as interim CEO following the retirement of the longtime CEO of the organization.