A few days ago, Grassroots Leadership received word that Florida-based GEO Group will continue its less-than-fabulous track record with the recent purchase of the Montgomery County Mental Health Facility (MCMHF) near Houston, Texas. While GEO has been operating the facility since 2011, it was owned by the state (?).
According to the article on Your Houston News, the 100-bed forensic hospital, originally for sale in June, will be sold to guarantee that the hospital's outstanding debt will be paid in full, including the voiding of any bonds. While the county set the initial bid for the facility at $35.8 million, and rejected GEO's bid for $35 million in July, negotiations between the two entities have continued. Assistant County Attorney B.D. Griffin predicts that an official agreement between Montgomery County and GEO will be presented at the next Commissioners Court on November 18.
GEO Group's interest in the facility comes as no surprise. GEO purchased the Joe Corley Detention Center in May of this year, which, though GEO paid $65 million for the detention center, generated $22 million for Montgomery County. (Grassroots Leadership blogger Piper Madison reported on the possible "hub" that GEO may be creating in Montgomery County in June.) In addition, GEO's health care division, GEO Care, provides mental health treatment to forensic, civil, and special-needs psychiatric populations. Joe Corley, a medium-security jail, is right next door to the recently purchased mental health facility on Hilbig Road in Conroe. GEO is also seeking to build an additional facility on that same road-unfortunately, not a surprise.
Since 2011, MCMHF has been reviewed three times by State Health Services, according to the Austin Statesman writer Andrea Ball. Problems surfaced in all three reviews, including unjustified seclusion and restraint of patients, failure to report serious injuries to the state, partially completed medical records, and failure to show that patients consent to take medication. In one case, according to the state, a patient was made to clean his own feces and urine. In another, a patient placed in seclusion seriously injured himself. Hospital staff, who were afraid to intervene, according to state hospital accredidation and certification coordinator JoAnn Elliott (Ball). According to Elliott,
While in seclusion for four hours, patient banged his head on the seclusion room window and walls, causing lacerations to both eyes and a bruise to head. Patient threatened staff if door was opened...Why was mechanical restraint not considered to protect patient from self-harm?"
The GEO Group, along with other for-profit prison companies, has only one goal: to gain profit from each and every person who is incarcerated in its facilities. Clearly, exploiting incarcerated individials wasn't dastardly enough. Now they seek to reap financial benefits from those who are suffering from mental illness. Those who suffer from mental illness need treatment and support from their communities, not to be exploited and sold into corporate slavery. This population is one that should be protected, and not sold to the highest bidder for any reason, much less to alleviate Montgomery County's debt in building the Joe Corley Detention Center. GEO's name for its health care division, GEO Care, is ironic at best and heinous at worst. Care for others is not on GEO's radar. Care for money, however, is the corporation's ultimate goal. Shame on you, Montgomery County, for allowing your government to be duped and, most importantly, for subjecting some of society's most vulnerable members to exploitation, abuse, and neglect. You are only a pawn in GEO's profit game.