Broad Coalition Urges DSHS to Reject Bid to Privatize State Hospital

August 10, 2012

Company’s history raises concerns about care of state’s most at-risk citizens

Austin, TX – A coalition of 13 state and local civil rights, mental health, labor, public policy and faith-based organizations have sent a letter urging the Department of State Health Services, Governor Rick Perry and the Legislative Budget Board to reject a proposal by GEO Care, a subsidiary of private prison corporation GEO Group, to takeover the management of a Texas State Hospital, where indigent people with mental illness and forensic patients incompetent to stand trial are rehabilitated.

The groups site GEO’s history of mismanagement and canceled contracts as the primary reason for their opposition. “In the past five months alone,” advocates write, “the company has made local and national headlines over multiple scandals perpetrated at several different facilities it operates. In April, GEO contracts at three facilities ended in Mississippi, including a youth facility that a federal judge described as having ‘allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate.’ Last month, the Associated Press reported three gruesome deaths, including a patient who died in a scalding bathtub, at GEO’s South Florida State Hospital.”

They also cite GEO’s fraught history in Texas operating correctional facilities and detention centers including the shuttering of Coke County juvenile detention center and a uprising at GEO- operated Reeves County Detention Center. “The GEO Group has a long and troubled history in Texas,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership, one of the organizations opposing the privatization proposal. “GEO has paid millions in lawsuits over the death of prisoners. If that kind of liability were to fall on the Dept. of State Health Services, GEO’s cost-cutting measures might not save taxpayers money.”

The coalition also expressed concern that GEO was the only bidder to DSHS’ request for proposal to privatize a state hospital, pursuant to a rider attached to the 2012 state budget in conference committee.

Signatories of the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Disability Rights Texas, Grassroots Leadership, Mental Health America of Texas, the National Association of Social Workers Texas, NAMI Austin, Texans Care for Children, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the Texas Jail Project, Texas NAACP, the Texas State Employees Union, and the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.

Download the letter here.

  • Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 971-0487
  • Gyl Switzer, Mental Health America of Texas, (512) 454-3706 x203