AUSTIN – A coalition of civil rights, mental health, labor, public policy and faith-based organizations today commended Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey for rejecting GEO Care’s proposal to privatize the state hospital at Kerrville.
Savings in the proposal were achieved “primarily through reductions in staffing and benefits to a degree that would put both our patients and the State of Texas at risk,” Lakey told the governor and Legislative Budget Board in a letter dated Oct. 3, 2012.
“This decision underscores the expectation that quality care and patient safety are the hospital’s most important priorities,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership. “The GEO proposal does not live up to these expectations.”
The coalition includes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, Mental Health America-Texas, Center for Public Policy Priorities, Disability Rights Texas, Grassroots Leadership, Texas NAACP, National Association of Social Workers Texas, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas Jail Project, Texas State Employees Union, The Texas Civil Right Project, and Texans Care for Children.
"Texas Jail Project pays close attention to the complaints on substandard medical care and neglect that it receives about county jails. The jails operated by GEO, formerly known as Wackenhut, exhibit a pattern of poor care and inhumane treatment to those with mental illnesses and physical problems," said Diana Claitor of TJP.
“Privatization typically provides substandard care at greater risk to taxpayers. That’s not wise use of state resources,” added Terri Burke of the ACLU of Texas. “We are gratified that Dr. Lakey recognized this.”
GEO Care is a subsidiary of the giant international private prison corporation, GEO, best known for operating correctional facilities and detention centers all over the world. GEO has a troubled history in Texas and other states where there have been allegations of mismanagement and canceled contracts. GEO Care runs the Montgomery County facility for state forensic mental health patients. There have been patient care violations and funding irregularities. Over the years, GEO has paid millions to satisfy lawsuits filed after the deaths of prisoners at its many facilities in various states.