Static is ec-static. The Texas Department of State Health Services has turned thumbs down on the proposal by GEO Care, the mental health arm of the GEO Group, the private prison giant with an atrocious history of prisoner abuse, to take over the Kerrville State Hospital (“Low Bidding Mental Illness,” Sept. 19, 2012). The 200-bed facility houses long-term mental patients involved with the criminal justice system: They have either been found not guilty of crimes by reason of insanity or have been found unfit to stand trial for reasons of mental illness.
The Texas Legislature ordered the health services agency to seek bids on privatizing at least one mental hospital in the state, with the mandate that any bidder must promise to lower the costs of running the institutions by 10 percent compared to 2011 budgets. Only one bid came in, from Geo Care, which is already having pretty serious patient care problems at the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Center it runs near Houston.
In the Oct. 3 letter to the Governor’s Office of Budget, Planning and Policy and the Legislative Budget Board, Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of DSHS, wrote that the GEO Care bid could indeed generate the required savings. However, he said, “the savings in the proposal were achieved primarily through reductions in staffing and benefits to a degree that would put both our patients and the State of Texas at risk.”
In a separate missive discussing the GEO Care proposal sent out the same day, the DSHS noted, among other things, that the proposal “would not ensure compliance with fundamental requirements of operating a facility” and that the human rights policies submitted by GEO Care “would not comply with rules governing state mental health hospitals … .”
In other words, GEO Care’s plan to cut staffing by 21 percent wouldn’t be a good idea for either patients or, ultimately, for taxpayers.
According to a DSHS spokesperson, this is “a final decision on this particular project.” Let’s hope the legislature doesn’t bring it up again anytime soon.
Last week’s cover story, “The Giant Still Sleeps” included an inaccuracy regarding the District 8 Fort Worth City Council campaign. Former council member Kathleen Hicks did not endorse her successor, Kelly Allen Gray. Fort Worth Weekly regrets the error.