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Dept. of Correction ends medical provider Connections CSP contract early

Nick Ciolino
Delaware Public Media
DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis

The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) is ending its contracts with medical and behavioral health services provider Connections CSP. 

The Vienna, Virginia-based government health care provider Centurion takes over care for offenders in First State level IV and V facilities starting next month—adding Delaware to the list of 15 other state correctional systems it already contracts with. 

The Connections contracts were up at the end of June, but DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis says the decision to end its relationship with Connections three months early was mutual, and neither the state nor Centurion require that time to transition. 

“Three months—are staff going to start taking sick days and are they worried about getting paid? We can’t run a prison health care system with those concerns,” said DeMatteis. “We’ve been forthright with Connections; they’ve been forthright with us.”

Centurion’s price tag is more expensive. Its bid for both the medical and behavioral health contracts comes to $68.9 million if positions are fully staffed—the state currently pays Connections $60 million. Three other providers, including Connections, bid for the state Request for Proposal (RFP) issued in November.

DeMatteis says the price difference pays for a more credentialed staff. 

“Where [Connections] might have a nurse practitioner in the role, Centurion wants a physician. Where [Connections] might have a psychologist with a master’s degree, Centurion wants to fill that with a Ph.D. psychologist,” she said.       

Connections is based in Delaware and has been providing care in the state since the 1980s. It has provided health care in state prisons for six years, and behavioral health care for eight years. 

Its founder, President and CEO of more than 30 years Catherine McKay announced her retirement in October. Its interim president and CEO William Northey took over in January.

“It is with a heavy heart and mixed emotions that Connections Community Support Programs withdraws from this collaborative endeavor with DOC,” said Northey in a statement.

A state Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into accusations Connections staff falsified documents after failing to provide adequate addiction counselling to inmates is ongoing—Connections leadership denies those accusations. 

Connections is currently seeking contracts with the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAHM) and the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA).

The state’s move to switch providers comes a few months after a review of Delaware's prison health care system by ChristianaCare recommended changes in leadership structuring and new communication strategies.

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