mental health

Humpday Hall of Shame: Texas Department of State Health Services plan to privatize Terrell State Hospital

Allies across the state were hoping Texas’ attempts to privatize state hospitals ended in 2012 when Department of State Health Services Commissioner Lakey rejected GEO Group’s bid to take over Kerrville State Hospital. We celebrated that victory in a previous blog post, but now, two years later, DSHS has issued a Request for Proposals for operation of Terrell State Hospital. DSHS plans to award a five-year contract as soon as August 15, 2014.

The RFP raises concerns for various reasons, but most notably because it indicates that eligible applicants “must be an entity with at least three years’ experience operating a Joint Commission-accredited psychiatric inpatient facility and demonstrate the financial strength to operate a large psychiatric hospital.” These requirements narrow the applicant pool considerably, leaving the bidding to only a few large companies, including the for-profit private prison corporation GEO Group, which has a sordid history delivering mental health services in Texas facilities.

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Privatized Mental Health Services is Bad Medicine

Last week we began a conversation about the privatization of services within correctional facilities, highlighting Ohio Governor John Kasich’s move to privatize food service throughout the state’s prison system, including juvenile detention facilities.  Today we want to examine another vital service that has been increasingly seized by private providers – health care, specifically mental health services, within correctional facilities.  

The high prevalence of mental illness among incarcerated populations is given little public attention.  In 2005, more than half of our country’s incarcerated population, a total of more than 1.2 million people, had a diagnosed mental health condition.  This fact should give us pause and raise national concerns about how mental health care is addressed in correctional settings.  Perhaps this crisis would seem more compelling if people knew that incarcerated persons with mental health issues have lower rates of employment, high rates of substance dependence or abuse, high rates of homelessness, and high prevalence of violent offenses – all of which have far reaching, negative effects.  It’s clear that mental illness among incarcerated populations is a serious, systemic issue with dire consequences for all of us. 

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Humpday Hall of Shame: High Point, NC Planning & Zoning Commission

Welcome to The Humpday Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we’ll highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

This week's Hall of Shame inductee is the Planning & Zoning Commission in High Point, NC.  Last night its members had an opportunity to halt The GEO Group from building a for-profit facility for the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.   A rezoning motion (Zoning Case 11-16) would have halted the troubled private prison corporation’s proposed forensic psychiatric hospital at the U.S. 311 and Greensboro Road interchange.

The commission issued a unanimous recommendation opposed to a City Council request to rezone the Evergreens Senior Health Care property, a request by the Council that would have prevented industrial use and block the facility.

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