County Board to consider dropping controversial jail healthcare contract

St. Louis County Jail
St. Louis County Jail(Lukas KBJR 6)
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 11:39 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 3:21 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- The St. Louis County Board will consider dropping its contract with a controversial company providing healthcare to inmates in the county jail.

According to the resolution on the County Board’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting, if approved, the county would end its contract with MEnD Correctional Care and partner with Duluth’s St. Luke’s Hospital instead.

MEnD has faced controversy following inmate Hardel Sherrell’s death in Beltrami County Jail in 2018.

More recently, the owner of MEnD, Todd Leonard, had his medical license revoked by the state.

MeND currently provides inmate medical services at the St. Louis County Jail 15 hours per day, five days a week, and four hours on weekends and holidays. They also provide mental health services 16 hours a week.

However, St. Louis County Jail administration recently decided they needed to increase medical and mental health services provided to inmates.

The county opened a Request for Proposals process and received four bids, which included: Twomagents, Inc. DBA Clipboard Health of California, MEnD Correctional Care of Sartell, MN, St. Luke’s Hospital of Duluth, and Advanced Correctional Healthcare of Franklin, TN.

A team evaluated their proposals and unanimously decided to recommend St. Luke’s Hospital.

If approved, in the first year, the county would pay St. Luke’s $1.7 million starting November 1, 2022. Staff would provide health care services 16 hours per day, 7 days a week, and offer 40 hours per week of mental health services.

Then in the second year of the contract, which would start January 2024, staff would provide care 24 hours per day, 7 days per week costing the county about $2 million.

The Duluth branch of the NAACP, which has been asking the county to end its contract with MEnD, responded to the proposal in a statement Monday:

“...This is an enormous step towards equity in the intersection between our health and criminal justice systems. We are grateful to our partners at St. Louis County, Minnesota Nurses Association, St. Luke’s and the greater Twin Ports Community for the countless hours that were needed to push the county towards this much-needed transition. In particular, our applause goes out to Del Shea Perry and the many other mothers and family members of MeND’s victims, who have fought endlessly to illuminate the horrors that result from for-profit healthcare in correctional settings.

We have held MeND accountable for the lives that have been lost and damaged throughout its regime and applaud St. Lukes for stepping up and providing a community service that other local healthcare organizations shied away from.

The path toward healthcare equity has been slow and will continue to be slow. Despite this victory, the profit-driven structures of both mass incarceration and our healthcare system remain strong. We look forward to continuing our work in the Duluth community to ensure that the healthcare needs of everyone in our community are met, no matter their social circumstances. We must remain vigilant and commit our time to fight for those who are most vulnerable and most hidden in our society...”

We’ll have more on this story tonight on the KBJR 6/CBS 3 news at 5 and 6 p.m.

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