is looking for a new provider of health care services for the county jail, as the current provider has announced it will be ceasing operations by March 1, 2023.
MEnD Correctional Care filed for bankruptcy earlier this fall and has been dealing with several controversies regarding its care, founder Dr. Todd Leonard having his medical license suspended and the company not paying staff.
At Tuesday's meeting of the Kandiyoh County Board, Eric Holien, Kandiyohi County Sheriff, said jail administration started looking into the future of medical care at the jail once Leonard's license was suspended earlier this year.
"There was some leg work done prior to this notification coming," Holien said.
Jail Administrator Matt Akerson said he has already been in contact with other counties and companies to find a replacement.
"Our options are very limited of where we can go, because nobody wants to get into correctional care," Akerson said, adding many companies he has contacted aren't interested in coming to Minnesota because of regulations.
Due to the size of its jail population, Kandiyohi County is required to have medical services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, the county has two full-time nurses and two full-time health technicians working at the jail, as well as a doctor that comes in twice a week and nurses from other area counties who cover weekend shifts.
"Our nurses are very loyal to Kandiyohi County" and willing to transfer to a new company to stay with the jail, Akerson said. "They are a great staff. They'll come in, put in extra hours."
The one company that does seem willing to come to Kandiyohi County, and employ the medical staff already in place, is
Advanced Correctional Healthcare
. Akerson said other MEnD counties have already turned to Advanced Correctional Healthcare to take over.
According to its website, it is the largest privately owned county jail health care provider in the United States, operating health care teams and customized programs in a variety of correctional settings across 19 states.
"They are very interested in us," Akerson said, adding county staff met with the company over Zoom during the past week to discuss exactly what Kandiyohi County wants and needs from its jail medical provider.
Akerson said other counties have already received bids from Advanced Correctional Healthcare on how much it would cost per year, but due to Kandiyohi County's size, it is taking a bit longer to get firm numbers. County Administrator Larry Kleindl said the board should be ready to pay more.
"We will find a medical provider to come in. It is going to cost more than we have budgeted," Kleindl said.
Representatives from Advanced Correctional Healthcare said the company would be able to quickly take over the jail from MEnD, in about three days. The company's recruiters have already reached out to current jail medical staff, Akerson said.
As the county goes through the process of finding a new health services provider, the staff currently employed by MEnD have been going weeks in some cases without a paycheck. Akerson said most of the nurses have gotten one check from MEnD, even though they are due two.
"Our lead nurse hasn't received a single check from MEnD since this has all started," Akerson said.
To make sure the medical staff continues to work and get paid for it, Kandiyohi County has been paying them out of the jail's medical expense account. The County Board was relieved to hear that.
"Nobody wants to go without a paycheck any time of the year, much less at the holidays," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke.
For Commissioner Steve Gardner, the issues with MEnD hit a bit close to home. He has a family member who works for the company and hasn't been paid in weeks.
Gardner said he hopes the payment the board approved to MEnD on Tuesday will go toward paying those employees.
"One can only hope that money actually goes to making those employees whole, opposed to any other creditors ahead of that," Gardner said. "But I don't have any great hopes of that company acting in the best interest of its rank-and-file employees."
The commissioners are hopeful the county can find a new medical provider soon and are more than willing to meet in an emergency meeting if needed to move things along faster.
"I hope something happens quickly," Gardner said. "The sooner MEnD is out of the picture the better for everyone."