New Dept. of Corrections health care provider chosen for mental health track record

The Minnesota Department of Corrections is switching health care providers for inmates for the first time in 15 years, in part to improve mental health services to the 9,500 adult inmates it serves.

The department's current contract with Corizon Health expires at the end of the year. The new two-year contract of $67.5 million with Centurion Managed Care begins the next day. Centurion's services will cost the department an additional $5 million dollars per year.

DOC spokesman John Schadl said Centurion distinguished itself in the selection process by doing research on ways Minnesota prisons could improve inmate healthcare.

"They came to us with a real solid history of dealing with people who have mental illness in a correctional environment," Schadl said. "Twenty-five percent of the men who serve sentences in Minnesota have a history of mental illness, 65 percent of the women."

Schadl said Centurion also has a high-tech method for delivering prescription drugs that will save the state money and free up time for nurses to do other things.

"It delivers a higher quality of care than we had been getting in terms of mental health services, in terms of dispensing pharmaceuticals," he said. "Improving the care that offenders receive will become a daily mission for us. It has been a daily mission, but we'll be dedicating resources there that that hadn't been in the past contract."

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