Pine County has become the most recent of a dozen counties to drop MEnD Correctional Care as its inmate medical service provider following a meeting of the County Board on July 5.
The County has contracted with the company since January of 2019. However, scrutiny over the company's track record has caused around a dozen Minnesota counties to drop MEnD as their jail care provider, according to MPR.
The death of a 27-year-old inmate in Beltrami County led to the suspension of Dr. Todd Leonard's medical license by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice. Leonard is the owner of MEnD and served as the care provider for the Pine County Jail.
These problems extend to staffing issues that affect medical coverage at the jail.
"MEnD is experiencing a great deal of staff turnover at this time that has affected our facility as well," said Pine County Jail Administrator Rod Williamson. "With little to no health tech coverage as we have contracted and our RNs are being pulled away to assist in other MEnD facilities throughout the state, that leaves us short-handed. MEnD's nurse manager has been replaced at our facility, and currently, I've seen him once."
The jail's total 2022 budget for healthcare is $415,000, and the current contract with MEnD has the county paying $334,280 annually.
The county looked at a few different options including a contract with Public Health; however, Williamson said that option would put a lot of liability on Pine County. He also stated that he does not think they are prepared to handle medical services for the jail.
Williamson proposed switching to Advanced Correctional Healthcare (ACH). A proposed contract with ACH would cost the county $369,698, which would cost an extra $35,417.64 annually compared to the previous contract with MEnD.
The justification for the increased cost was that Pine County would receive increased services through ACH, including onsite mental health services four hours a week with a qualified mental health practitioner (QMHP).
"Now, we have more of a mental health tech on a phone with a screen," said Williamson. "I don't want to assume everybody knows this, but it is really difficult to have a mentally ill person sitting in front of a TV screen and getting a quality service. We'll have that QMHP in our facility fours a week and longer if we need."
The Pine County Board approved terminating the contract with MEnD and start services with ACH unaminously.