In Texas, where both incarceration and immigrant detention rates soar, we’re accustomed to scrutinizing the state’s privatization efforts of these facilities. However, there’s a new trend afoot in our state; privatizing state mental health facilities under the guise of cost savings to taxpayers, and Texas is turning over control of these facilities to companies that run for-profit prisons to provide care and safety to our state’s mentally ill population.
The state is currently considering a bid to turn over control of the Kerrville State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility, to GEO Care. GEO Care is a part of GEO Group, the private prison corporation that has been at the helm of numerous privately operated Texas prison and youth detention facilities that have been the site of lawsuits, mismanagement, and canceled contracts. Perhaps the most egregious example of the company’s failings took place at Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, which was closed in 2007 following reports of horrific conditions under GEO Group’s management.
But our concern extends beyond GEO’s troubled history in Texas. Our research found that the former Chief Operating Officer at Kerrville State Hospital, Stephen Anfinson, is currently employed by GEO Care as the Facility Administrator and CEO at Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility which is currently being fined by the state for serious shortcomings in patient care, including unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients, incomplete medical records, failure to show patient consent for medications and failure to report serious injuries to the state.
Grassroots Leadership joined twelve other mental health advocacy, civil liberty, and criminal justice reform groups to send a letter to state leadership calling on them to reject GEO Care’s bid. Sign the petition to add your voice!
Reject GEO Care's Bid to Take Over Kerrville State Hospital
We write to express our concern about the Texas Department of State Health Services’ call for bids to privatize a State Hospital, pursuant to rider 63 to the 2012 State Budget. We are concerned that the requirement to cut 10% from the hospital’s budget through privatization can only be achieved by reducing the quality of care at a hospital run on an already austere budget. Texas already spends the least per capita on mental health than any other state, at slightly less than 1/3 the national average.
Furthermore, we are particularly concerned that the only respondent to the request for proposal was GEO Care, a subsidiary of private prison corporation GEO Group. GEO
Group has a long history of mismanaging the facilities it is charged with operating.
The list of scandals to which GEO can lay claim is a long one. In the past five months alone, 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 week, the Associated Press reported three gruesome deaths, including a patient who died in a scalding bathtub, at GEO’s South Florida State Hospital. And in our own state, the Austin American Statesman reported that GEO has been fined by DSHS for problems at the GEO-run forensic psychiatric facility in Montgomery County, including “unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients, incomplete medical records, failure to show patient consent for medications and failure to report serious injuries to the state.”
GEO also has a long history of operational problems at its facilities in Texas. In 2009, prisoners at GEO-operated Reeves County Detention Center rioted over issues at
the facility including poor quality of health care and multiple prisoner deaths. In 2007,the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was shut down due to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions under GEO operation.
GEO’s promise of a 10% reduction in operating costs while simultaneously pledging to maintain standards of excellence is unreasonable. The company’s track record demonstrates a repeated failure to deliver on such promises, failing to maintain even basic standards of humanity at its facilities. GEO has faced no competition in this process as the sole bidder. We urge you to reject this bid until a corporation suitable to operate a Texas State Hospital makes a reasonable proposal, or until the legislature can provide further direction.