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Delaware budget makers question extending contract of DOC's medical provider

Delaware Public Media

Members of the Joint Finance Committee are raising the possibility of not extending prison health provider Connections’ contract through 2020.

Connections has been under fire recently for allegedly giving inmates poor health care or not providing care at all.

Video obtained by the News Journal shows a Connections nurse in 2016 failing to give an ill inmate at the Sussex Community Corrections Center adequate care. He died a short time later.

And the Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into claims by former Connections’ workers that they were directed to falsify inmate records at an addiction treatment program in Sussex County.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King of Georgetown - who serves on the Joint Finance Committee - said she’s concerned about these reports.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to ask the right questions, to look at and make them go through a contract process what other vendors may be out there that might be able and willing to provide those services,” she said.

Briggs King also said she's uncomfortable extending the company’s contract another year. The Department of Correction has been extending Connections’ contract with the state without sending it out bid since the contract ended in 2016.

“And you look at the problems that we’re having and so we’re not holding them accountable for those problems if it’s just sort of automatic,” she said.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Jackson said he understands Briggs Kings’ concerns. He said the state also needs to maintain health services for the inmates while services are publicly bid or transferred to another vendor if that’s what lawmakers decide.

DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps has announced he is retiring July 15th. It’s unclear if the recent controversy with Connections factored into his decision.

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