Advocates Respond to News of Relationship Between Janek and GEO Care Lobbyist: Communication Raises Concerns about Current and Future Contracts

April 21, 2015

Austin, TX - Last Thursday, the Austin American-Statesman released a report that revealed on-going communication between Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek and Frank Santos, a paid lobbyist for the private corporation GEO Care. Emails between the two revealed an early scheme and timeline to privatize a state hospital in the state. This plot was concocted before and without any legislative initiation and included suggestions from GEO Care on the timeline and content for the Request for Proposal (RFP). While Janek attributed the numerous text and phone contacts between himself and Santos to their personal relationship, many of the calls corresponded with important dates in the RFP process.  

Given the recent contracting

scandals, including a scathing audit of the Terrell State Hospital privatization attempt, this news should add to scrutiny of past and future hospital privatization attempts. “If these types of under-the-table dealings were a part of the attempts to privatize Terrell, who is to say that this was not also going on during the attempt to privatize Kerrville or in the contract GEO currently has with Montgomery County,” said Eshe Cole, Mental Health and Criminal Justice Coordinator at Grassroots Leadership. “It is obvious that these corporations have their sights set on expanding their opportunities in Texas any way they can.”

This is the second attempt to award GEO Care a contract to privatize a state hospital in recent years. In 2012, GEO Care was the sole bidder to operate the Kerrville State Hospital. After opposition from stakeholders and advocates, HHSC Commissioner Janek declared that the proposed cost savings by GEO care would in actuality cut staffing to the extent that it would put the citizens and the state at risk. Nevertheless, this did not stop HHSC from issuing another RFP and ultimately attempting to offer GEO Care, now Correct Care Recovery Solutions, another chance to operate a state hospital.

"In addressing state hospitals, the state’s priority should be the health and safety of patients,” said Lynn Lasky Clark, President & CEO, Mental Health America of Texas. “For the Health and Human Services Commission in this contracting process, the priorities were at best unclear and at worst unrelated to the health and safety of patients.”

The Terrell privatization attempt occurred without legislative direction and with no public hearings. Advocates, stakeholders, and even local officials were caught by surprise with the privatization attempt and largely left out of the process. "This is a perfect example of how privatization obstructs public accountability and puts vulnerable citizens at risk" said Harrison Hiner Legislative and Political Director of the Texas State Employees Union. Advocates agree the future of our state hospitals should not be beholden to the personal whims of state employees.  




 

Contact: 

Eshe Cole, Grassroots Leadership, ecole@grassrootsleadership.org, (512) 499-8111

Harrison Hiner, Texas State Employees Union, hhiner@cwa-tseu.org, (512) 448-4225