Prison Health Contractor Accused of Failing Mentally Ill Inmates in Kansas

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Locked in solitary confinement in a prison in rural Kansas without his schizophrenia medication, Anthony Downing says he grew paranoid, fearing the guards were poisoning his food, The Kansas City Star reports. When he could take it no longer, he started launching himself off the metal frame of his bed, kicking at the windows in his cell again and again until men in protective gear came in and dragged him out. “I broke the windows,” Downing said, “and they told me I was getting transferred and I was like, ‘Thank God.”

Downing, now out of prison, was serving time at Ellsworth Correctional Facility, a small institution in central Kansas. It’s one of several mostly rural facilities where the state’s health care contractor, Corizon Health, has fallen well short of the contract’s requirements for staffing key mental health positions, according to documents The Star obtained through an open records request. The documents, which covered Corizon’s performance from July 2015 through December 2018, showed that almost 20 percent of the 10,000 inmates across the state prison system were on psychotropic medications during that time. But prisons in Ellsworth, Norton, Winfield and Hutchinson went months at a time without Corizon reporting any hours worked there by psychiatrists, the medical providers most qualified to prescribe and calibrate those medications. Some of the other prisons during that time reported some psychiatrist hours but not the amount the contract called for.

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