Originally published OCT. 10, 2017 by David Reutter published in Prison Legal News October, 2017, page 44 by David Reutter

In 2005, at the urging of then-Governor Mitch Daniels, the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) awarded a contract to privatize medical care for prisoners. The winning bidder, Prison Health Services, merged in 2011 with Correctional Medical Services to form Corizon Health, which later won renewal of a three-year, $300 million contract to provide medical, dental, vision, mental health and substance abuse treatment services to IDOC’s 28,000 prisoners.

In February 2017, however, state prison officials declined to renew Corizon’s contract, instead awarding it to Wexford Health Sources. Consequently, Corizon announced the following month that it planned to lay off almost 700 employees in 22 IDOC facilities. [See: PLN,Sept. 2017, p.32].

PLN has reported extensively on Corizon and the company’s business model, which appears to consist of delaying or denying medical care and reducing staffing costs to increase profits; in turn, that has resulted in numerous prisoner deaths and injuries. [See, e.g.: PLN,Oct. 2015, p.20; March 2014, p.1].

Yet the IDOC’s watchdog over Corizon’s contractual performance was a former Corizon employee.

Dr. Michael Mitcheff was working as an emergency room physician at two Indiana hospitals when, in 1994, he was investigated for buying illegal drugs. He ultimately admitted that over a three-year period he had bottles of a cough syrup containing hydrocodone illegally delivered to his home. Mitcheff agreed to participate in a treatment program and was ordered not to practice medicine during treatment.

In 1998, Mitcheff’s license was suspended for 90 days after he wrote prescriptions in other people’s names and picked the drugs up from pharmacies. Documents from the state medical board indicated Mitcheff had admitted to a state police officer that he picked up 57 pints of a drug that contained hydrocodone.

When his license was reinstated in October 1999, records show Mitcheff was sober for a year – he passed 100 drug tests. The medical board agreed to let him work again, but “only in the Indiana state prison system” – which allowed Mitcheff to serve as Corizon’s regional medical director in Indiana. He said his personal experiences gave him a unique perspective.

“There’s nobody more empathetic to the patient population we serve,” Mitcheff stated. “Addiction is a disease, and who better to understand that?”

In 2014 he became the IDOC’s chief medical officer, overseeing Corizon’s contract. Responding to complaints, Mitcheff said he did not see medical staff “withholding care.” In fact, he added, “we watch that carefully.” Defending the health care provided to IDOC prisoners, Mitcheff proclaimed, “I am confident that our clinical metrics for chronic conditions are better than [in] the free world.”

Yet the number of prisoner medical complaints to the IDOC’s ombudsman jumped from 153 in 2010 to 509 in 2015. Prisoner deaths, including suicides, increased to 86 in 2015.  Read the rest of the article here: https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2017/oct/10/corizon-loses-indiana-doc-medical-contract-amid-lawsuits/