The Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta in September 2020. File Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA – Kennebec County officials say they quickly signed another provider of medical services for inmates after a stark notification recently by Correctional Health Partners that it would no longer cover such services at Kennebec County Jail due of a disputed invoice.

At a special meeting on Friday, Kennebec County commissioners voted to contract with CPS Health Care, which already provides mental health services at the prison, to also provide medical services to inmates for the remaining five months of the HPC contract.

Correctional Health Partners, which served at least three Maine County jails, also ended its services in Androscoggin County. The company has notified Kennebec County that it will cease providing services effective August 1.

Kennebec officials have already begun the process of putting options in place to screen medical providers in prison. Two months ago, the county issued a request for proposals for prison health care, and those proposals are due at the end of the month.

The inmate population at Kennebec County Correctional Facility typically numbers about 140 people and has about 50 employees.

CPS Health Care, based in Massachusetts, provides services to Kennebec and York county sheriff‘s offices.

“We can’t go a day without medical services at the jail,” Kennebec County Administrator Scott Ferguson said. “If we had a break in the medical service, we would have to ship inmates to other prisons in the state.”

Attempts to reach the Correctional Health Partners office in Denver this week failed because calls to multiple departments, including media relations, were not connected.

Ferguson said Correctional Health Partners sent the county an “adjustment” invoice, requesting payment of about $350,000 — an amount equivalent to about a third of the contract price — in additional costs for the services.

The extra money was apparently intended to provide a bonus for nurses. Ferguson said when he asked for additional details, including time sheets and other supporting documents to justify the bill, he only received a spreadsheet containing “random information.”

“It became a legal issue,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he would be willing to settle with the company as the costs could have been higher, but he would like to see more documentation than the company has provided to date.

Clarice Proctor, Androscoggin County’s acting administrator, said Tuesday via email that Correctional Health Partners had also given notice of termination to the county.

“We have already found a new company to contract with with no downtime,” Proctor wrote.

She said she hadn’t seen any sort of additional bill from Correctional Health Partners.

Knox County, meanwhile, is currently in the first year of a three-year contract with the Colorado-based Correctional Health Partners.

“We still have them at this point, and that’s about all I can probably say,” Knox County Administrator Andrew Hart said. “I know there have been discussions of concerns with them, but those are being dealt with by staff at correctional facilities and discussions with our attorney.”

Hart said that to his knowledge, Correctional Health Partners had not sent any additional invoices to Knox County. And while there were issues, Hart said the county and the health care provider resolved them.

Currently, Correctional Health Partners has posted advertisements to fill administrative, nursing and substance abuse positions in Rockland.

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