Westmoreland County will pay nearly double for inmate medical care under a new five-year contract approved by commissioners.
The $20.9 million contract with PrimeCare Medical Inc. of Harrisburg will include increased services focused on mental health treatment and support for inmates at Hempfield Jail.
The commissioners selected the company from four companies that applied for the contract. Wexford Health Sources, which for nearly a decade ran the prison’s infirmary and other medical services, was among the companies that made proposals.
The county will pay PrimeCare Medical $3.9 million in the first year of the agreement, with an increase to more than $4 million in 2023. Costs will rise over the last three years to $4.1 million in 2025; $4.3 million in 2026; and $4.4 million in 2027.
Medical care for inmates under Wexford’s expired five-year, $10.5 million contract averaged more than $2 million a year.
PrimeCare is expected to start working at the prison on September 1.
Director Bryan Kline said the added costs come with improved services for mental health treatment.
About 70% of inmates at the prison have mental health needs, Kline said.
“There will be additional staff and increased mental health services,” Kline said.
The company will hire and pay the salaries of the prison’s medical staff. Officials said the county would receive an additional 351 hours of onsite care each week under the terms of the agreement.
The commissioners said they expected to pay more in the new contract.
“The previous contract reflected the state of the county at the time it was negotiated. Rising industry costs, coupled with increased mental health needs, are driving up health care costs across all sectors,” Commissioner Doug Chew said.
The contract includes $239,700 for a new program to provide inmates with suboxone or methadone, drugs that help relieve heroin addicts’ withdrawal symptoms. Inmates who enter prison with prescriptions for these drugs will continue to receive them while in custody, Kline said.
Earlier this year, the county received a $350,000 grant to implement the substance abuse maintenance program.
Officials said additional mental health treatment and increased therapy and counseling for inmates should reduce recidivism rates and ultimately reduce the number of inmates behind bars at the prison.
Commissioners have budgeted $15.9 million for prison operations in 2022.
“Unfortunately, all the companies that submitted a proposal were much more expensive than our last contract. This will definitely affect our budget, as will the rising costs of everything. For this reason, we did not choose the most expensive company,” said commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher.