Milwaukee County committee votes to take control of inmate health care at Milwaukee County Jail

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County's Finance and Audit Committee voted 7-0  Thursday, Dec. 6 to approve a proposal from Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb to take control of medical services at the Milwaukee County Jail.

According to a news release, with the vote, the committee recommended Milwaukee County directly provide inmate medical services, rather than continue contracting with an outside, private vendor.

"Milwaukee County has an opportunity to do the right thing and ensure we are providing quality healthcare at all of our facilities by bringing the provision of Jail and House of Corrections medical services in-house. Moving away from Armor is the first part of doing the right thing. I was opposed to Armor and the privatization of medical services five years ago and I'm opposed to it now. Armor failed to live up to their promises of better quality, and I have zero confidence in another profit-motivated vendor taking over. I believe Milwaukee County employees are best suited to delivering the quality of care and level of integrity that taxpayers expect and deserve," said Lipscomb in the release.

Lipscomb presented the idea to the committee while the committee was considering a report on the status of the county's contract with Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc.

According to the release, in 2013, a judge ordered Milwaukee County to contract with Armor, over the objections of the County Board, citing the County's struggle to meet staffing criteria set by a legal settlement known as the Christensen Decree.

The chief of staff for Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele issued this statement on the committee vote:

“For Milwaukee County, our job is this: to serve the people of our community. All of them. The homeless ones, the jailed ones, the families playing in parks. The people battling addiction, the senior citizens who need a meal, the people who can’t afford to keep their heat on in winter. We are here to help them – and, if they’re in our care, to protect them. We can’t contract out our responsibility as watchdogs and advocates, and we will hold all of our services to the highest standard.

In providing medical care for residents at the jail and House of Correction, we will fully examine all our options, including both insourcing and contracting with a vendor. Any look at insourcing must include a thorough examination of the County’s past failures in providing this type of care and a full analysis of our capacity to perform this function to the highest standard. During the RFP process, the County performed extensive due diligence in creating a strict standard for outside vendors. If the County considers taking on this responsibility, we would be obligated to meet or exceed that standard in order to serve, protect and empower Milwaukee County residents.”