Prison system: Alabama making progress in mental health

Alabama prison officials contend they are making "substantial progress" in increasing mental health staff and have asked a federal judge to not find the state in contempt of court.

Posted: Dec 24, 2018 4:47 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama prison officials contend they are making "substantial progress" in increasing mental health staff and have asked a federal judge to not find the state in contempt of court.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has scheduled a Jan. 7 hearing on whether the Alabama Department of Corrections should be found in contempt of a court order to increase mental health staffing numbers to minimum levels.

The department wrote in a Friday court filing acknowledged that Wexford Health Sources, the contractor hired to provide health care, had not been able to meet staffing targets but said "both are making all efforts to increase staffing as quickly as possible."

"In sum, the state is not contending that it has fulfilled every requirement of the staffing remedial order. But it has made in good faith all reasonable efforts to do so, and those efforts have resulted in substantial progress," the filing stated.

Attorneys for the inmates have asked the judge to find the prison system in contempt, arguing the prison system is "woefully short" of a requirement to fill 263 full-time mental health positions.

"Defendants' contempt is placing prisoners with serious mental-health needs at a substantial risk of serious harm every day. Their failures are most evident when looking at staffing levels for mental-health staff with advanced training, specifically psychiatrists, CRNPs, psychologists, and registered nurses," lawyers for inmates wrote earlier this month.

Elaine Gedman, chief administrative officer and executive vice president for Wexford Health Sources, disputed that characterization. She wrote in a declaration with the court filing that they had provided 227 full-time equivalent positions.

The prison system wrote that there has been difficulty in recruiting staff because of a shortage of health professionals in the state, particularly in rural areas. They also said compliance should be measured by "hours of service" provided, instead of just positions filled.

Thompson last year ruled that mental health care was "horrendously inadequate" in state prisons and created unconstitutional conditions. The ruling came after the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program filed a class-action lawsuit over health care in state prisons.

The first inmate to testify at the trial killed himself days after describing past suicide attempts and a lack of psychiatric treatment while in state custody.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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