Kansas agency may privatize state psychiatric hospital working to regain federal funds

Source: Allison Kite, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 16, 2017
 
The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is considering privatization for a troubled state psychiatric hospital that has now passed an initial step toward regaining some federal funding. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said the department was considering a bid from Correct Care Recovery Solutions, which runs other mental health facilities across the country, to rebuild and privately run Osawatomie State Hospital.  The department also announced in a press release Wednesday that the acute care unit at the state psychiatric hospital had passed an initial survey required to get that part of the hospital re-certified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. …

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Kansas Official To Outline Privatization Plan For Osawatomie State Hospital
Source: Jim McLean, KCUR, August 14, 2017
 
One way or another, Tim Keck wants to replace the state’s aging Osawatomie State Hospital with a new mental health treatment facility.  Though he is meeting with some resistance, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is pushing lawmakers to consider privatizing the state-run psychiatric hospital, which in recent years has been beset by operational problems.  On Tuesday Keck will outline a privatization plan submitted by a Tennessee-based company to stakeholders and legislators during a 1 p.m. meeting at hospital’s administration building. …

Osawatomie Contract Bidder Has History Of Safety Issues At Its Florida Psychiatric Facilities
Source: Meg Wingerter, KMUW, February 23, 2017

Correct Care Solutions, a Tennessee-based company that is the sole bidder for a contract to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, has a history of safety problems at the state psychiatric facilities it runs in Florida. Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) declined to provide details this week on Correct Care’s bid to operate Osawatomie State Hospital, one of two state facilities for people deemed a danger to themselves or others. The department is evaluating the proposal and hasn’t given a timeline for whether or when it would bring it before the Legislature. Under a law they approved last year, lawmakers must approve the contract before KDADS can move forward. …

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Arkansas seeks bids for privatization of juvenile centers

Source: Tafi Mukunyadzi, Associated Press, August 14, 2017
 
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday that the state will seek bids from the private sector to take over operations of seven juvenile detention centers in Arkansas.  Hutchinson said the Arkansas Department of Human Services recommended soliciting a private operator, and that bids were likely to go out in December. The winning bid is expected to be announced in March, and the facilities would be taken over in July, the governor said. …

MBTA union blasts Baker’s privatization plan

Source: Christian M. Wade, Gloucester Times, August 14, 2017
 
Union workers at the MBTA are pushing back against Gov. Charlie Baker’s plans to privatize bus maintenance, saying it will cost jobs and compromise safety.  Hundreds of workers rallied Thursday outside the MBTA’s Lynn garage, where they blasted Baker’s support for hiring private companies to take over bus maintenance.  “Gov. Baker has chosen to gamble with the taxpayers, the safety of riders and the livelihoods of these hardworking men and women,” said Michael Vartabedian, who heads the International Association of Machinists Local 264, a union representing 120 MBTA bus maintenance machinists. “We won’t let core public services like MBTA bus maintenance be dismantled and destroyed.” …

Senators, reps urge T: Negotiate with your workers instead of privatizing
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, April 20, 2017

The state’s congressional delegation is urging the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to negotiate with a machinists union in hopes of preventing dozens of jobs from being outsourced.  In an April 17 letter to Governor Charlie Baker and the state’s transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, the legislators called on the MBTA to negotiate with the International Association of Machinists Local 264 less than a week after the agency’s board approved a budget that could privatize dozens of jobs. …

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State Inspector General looking into MBTA deals
Source: Matt Stout, Boston Herald, Thursday, April 13, 2017

The state’s independent Inspector General has launched a “proactive” review of at least one of the MBTA’s newly outsourced contracts, bringing the first outside scrutiny to the T’s privatization efforts since the lawmakers granted it a waiver from the Pacheco Law. Inspector General Glenn Cunha’s office said the “interim analysis” — which is not required by law — will be led by a unit specifically created in 2009 to monitor MassDOT, the MBTA and its various programs. Cunha’s office declined to say which contract it’s scrubbing, but it will focus on one of two: a five-year, $18.7 million contract with Brink’s Co., to take over the T’s so-called “money room”; or a five-year, $28 million contract with Mancon to run a parts warehouse.

MBTA officials hope to can save $26 million in bus maintenance costs
Source: Nicole Dungca, Boston Globe, March 6, 2017
 
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials said Monday they want to solicit bids to privatize several of their nine bus garages to save about $26 million annually, a prospect that prompted dozens of union supporters to pack the agency’s weekly board meeting.  The MBTA spent about $132 million on bus maintenance during the 2016 fiscal year, and officials estimated that outsourcing the work to private companies could save $26 million annually, officials said.   Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s acting general manager, said the agency must be “ruthless” in becoming more efficient. He has previously pointed to the MBTA’s bus maintenance costs as much higher than those of similar agencies. … The MBTA didn’t release a timetable for the bid process, but it has suggested it would make the change before the next fiscal year. … Officials are focused on privatizing four dilapidated garages in the Boston area, which are staffed by about 120 workers. … Officials also hope outside companies will find ways to cut about $5 million in costs at the Everett bus garage, and about $6 million at the Cabot Garage in South Boston, which will soon be used only for new buses. Workers at Cabot have also been “challenged” to bring their costs down to private-sector levels, Shortsleeve said. … If approved, the outsourcing would mark one of the largest privatization efforts under Governor Charlie Baker’s administration, which had pushed for more flexibility in outsourcing public jobs. The MBTA is already privatizing its cash collection and warehousing departments. MBTA officials have said that the threat of privatization has spurred union officials to reduce worker costs. In December, the MBTA’s largest labor group, the Boston’s Carmen’s Union, agreed to give up a bargained raise and cut wages for future workers to protect thousands of jobs from being outsourced. …

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More funding, accountability for VA Choice program proposed, now what?

Source: Steff Thomas, Federal News Radio, August 7, 2017

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin received his wish last week as the House passed a bill that will add an additional $2.1 billion for the Veterans Choice Program. The bill, also known as the Choice Act, was introduced just weeks before the current Choice program funding was set to expire, and passed as a last-minute decision before Congress left for the August recess. One question that still lingers is, if passed into law, how will that money be spent? In an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin, Shulkin outlined in detail some of the ways the Veteran Affairs Department would use the extra funds in a system of modernization projects, construction of new facilities and comprehensive public-private sector partnerships.

… These private-public partnerships would allow veterans to get best-in-class care at VA facilities and, when they needed to, take advantage of the services from community providers. It would alleviate some waiting times and give veterans more options for health care. Shulkin strongly urged that this idea was not an attempt to privatize VA operations, but to create a stronger and more modern system. He said even President Donald Trump’s budget proposal was supportive of improving more services within the VA, and not at all representative of someone supporting privatization. …

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How VA Reform Turned Into a Fight Over Privatization
Source: Russell Berman, The Atlantic, July 17, 2017

In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs was mired in a scandal. An inspector general’s report had found “systemic” manipulation by government officials to hide lengthy and growing wait times at its medical centers. … Spurred to action, Congress created a program aimed at temporarily alleviating the strain on the VA: Veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a health-care facility or who had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment could take their benefits outside the system and seek treatment from private doctors. …The Choice Program, as it was called, would allow veterans to get the care they needed while giving policy-makers time to make broader fixes at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which suffered from mismanagement and insufficient resources. Three years later, attempts by Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration to extend and significantly expand the Choice Program have given these groups and leading Democrats a new worry: a creeping privatization of the VA. …

Senate Easily Confirms Trump Pick of Shulkin as VA Secretary
Source: Hope Yen, Associated Press, February 13, 2017

The Senate on Monday easily confirmed physician David Shulkin to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, charged with delivering on President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to fix long-standing problems at the department.  Senators voted 100-0 to approve the former Obama administration official, who was the VA’s top health official since 2015, in a rare show of bipartisanship amid partisan rancor over Trump’s other nominees. Shulkin secured the backing of Senate Democrats after pledging at his confirmation hearing to always protect veterans’ interests, even if it meant disagreeing at times with Trump. … The 57-year old physician has ruled out fully privatizing the agency and says wide-scale firings of VA employees are unnecessary, describing the VA workforce as “the best in health care.” … The immediate challenge includes revamping scheduling and access for VA medical appointments following a 2014 wait-time scandal. Shulkin is urging a more integrated VA network where veterans could seek outside private care only in coordination with the VA. He has not sketched out full details. “We’ve yet to hear from him how he’ll pursue President Trump’s vision for a public-private partnership at the VA,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director for the conservative group Concerned Veterans for America. …

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Daily understaffing persists at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, August 10, 2017

Understaffing at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans continues to be a problem, according to an follow-up audit released by the state. That’s after the home entered into a new staffing contract in fall 2016. … However, most other major problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans identified in a blistering state audit in February 2016 have largely been resolved, the report found. …

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Blame for poor care at Grand Rapids veterans home sits at the top, Dems say
Source: Amy Biolchini, MLive, July 27, 2017
 
Democratic State Representatives Winnie Brinks and Tim Greimel say Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette hasn’t gone far enough to hold officials with the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and the state accountable for the poor conditions at the facility.  “Why did it take so long to get some action? For years, our veterans were literally calling for help, pressing the help button beside their bed, and hearing silence,” Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said at a Thursday, July 27, press conference in front of the home.  This week Schuette announced felony charges for falsifying medical records against 11 former nursing assistants who worked for the former contractor, J2S Group Healthforce. His investigation found there wasn’t enough evidence to bring criminal charges over the five worst complaints about member treatment, in some of which veterans died. …

Did a 2011 lawsuit against Grand Rapids Home for Veterans predict the future?
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, July 25, 2017
 
The lawsuit was filed by veteran Anthony Spallone intending to stop the on-going privatization at the time.  Gov. Rick Snyder recommended taking state-employed care aides out the home and replace them with nurse aides hired by local contractor J2s.  It was a contentious environment at the time as state aides lost their jobs and were replaced by people they considered to be less-skilled, less-experienced and cheaper.  Union leaders did everything they could to stop the job losses including filing Spallone’s lawsuit.  It alleged the privatization would lead to substandard care and contended J2S had a quote “dangerous track record of care”.   Spallone’s attorney at the time was adamant veterans could be put in terrible situations with the privatization. …

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Scuba supply company pays $16 million to settle allegations it defrauded the military

Source: Aaron Greg, Washington Post, August 11, 2017

A Virginia Beach company that supplies advanced equipment for the U.S. military’s search-and-rescue operations has agreed to pay $16 million to settle allegations that it fraudulently obtained government contracts and engaged in illegal bid-rigging schemes, the Justice Department announced Thursday. … The Justice Department said the $16 million payment was one of the largest ever made in connection with small business contracting programs, enough money to put a lot of small businesses under water. But ADS isn’t so small anymore: it made about $1 billion from federal contracts last year, making it the 56th-largest defense contractor, according to Bloomberg Government. … The allegations concern a collection of federal programs meant to help small businesses learn the ropes of the complicated government procurement process and secure contracts. The Justice Department alleges the company managed to take advantage of these programs despite its size by relying on an elaborate network of smaller companies. …

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans

Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

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Tennessee Inks Collaborative Facilities Management Contract With JLL
Source: Kate Vitasek, Forbes, June 29, 2017
 
The state of Tennessee has signed a facilities management contract to help the state provide the best service to citizens and employees at the lowest possible cost for taxpayers.  The contract was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for five years with up to five one-year extensions. It allows the state of Tennessee’s various agencies and institutions to utilize JLL’s professional facilities management services. The potential scope covers over 7,500 state run properties spanning 97 million square feet. …

Judge rules Tennessee must release outsourcing records about Fall Creek Falls purchase
Source: Associated Press, June 29th, 2017

A judge has ruled in favor of a media group that sued the state of Tennessee to release records about its attempt to outsource services at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government says Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young on Tuesday ruled that the state must produce records to City Press Communications LLC, parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post, and reporter Cari Wade Gervin. …

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Higher Rates, Missed Pickups: L.A. is Hearing a Rash of Complaints About its New Waste Removal System

Source: David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2017

Eight months ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted to overhaul the way trash is picked up at tens of thousands of businesses and large residential buildings, giving the work exclusively to a select group of companies. Backers of the program, championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the new system would increase recycling, roll out cleaner-fuel trash trucks and improve workplace safety for sanitation workers. But the new program, known as RecycLA, is not being universally welcomed by the businesses and residents who will rely on it for their trash pickup. In recent weeks, customers have begun complaining about soaring prices, uncollected trash and calls to their new waste hauling companies going unreturned. …

Betsy DeVos’ 6-month report card: More undoing than doing

Source: Associated Press, August 10, 2017
 
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the news cycle has been dominated by stories of White House controversy: a travel ban, North Korea, health care and more.  Meanwhile, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been busy fulfilling her conservative agenda that seeks to broaden school choice and market-based schooling in pre-K through higher education.  As a researcher of education policy and politics, I’ve been following Secretary DeVos’ first six months in office. Here’s a quick look at what’s she’s done – and what’s been left in limbo. …

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School’s out: Teachers union chief Randi Weingarten says Trump leads “most anti-public-education” administration ever
Source: Chauncey Devega, Salon, August 7, 2017
 
How can public education be saved in America? What role does Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos play in the crisis facing America’s public schools? Why do so many Americans believe in the false promises and lies of school privatization and other neoliberal so-called reforms? How are strong American public schools essential for a strong democracy and robust economy?  In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. A longer version can be heard on my podcast, available on Salon’s Featured Audio page. …

Betsy DeVos Is Making “School Choice” Toxic for Democrats
Source: Graham Vyse, New Republic, July 26, 2017
 
Trump and DeVos are among the many opponents of public education who, for more than a decade now, have cast school privatization as a civil rights mission, arguing that vouchers and charters extend opportunity to communities of color. Even many Democrats, while maintaining that education is a public good, have bought into this narrative. But last year, the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives called for a moratorium on charters, with the former saying the schools exacerbate segregation and destabilize traditional public schools (not least by diverting funds away from them). These civil rights groups, the Times reported, “portray charters as the pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires, and argue that the closing of traditional schools as students migrate to charters has disproportionately disrupted black communities.” …

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Dems demand new cost estimate for Trump’s air traffic control plan

Source: Melanie Zanona, The Hill, August 7, 2017

House Democrats are demanding a new cost estimate for President Trump’s proposal to separate air traffic control from the federal government. In a letter to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), top Democrats on several committees asked for a new score of the spinoff plan after changes were made to the legislation following its approval from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The privatization push has been formally endorsed by the White House but has not yet been brought to a floor vote in the House. …

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As the House rushes toward summer recess, the fate of 30,000 federal workers is undecided
Source: Ashley Halsey III, Washington Post, July 26, 2017
 
Almost two months after President Trump with great fanfare endorsed removing them from the payroll, the fate of more than 30,000 federal employees will not be decided before the House adjourns for its summer recess.  House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) had hoped to find both the necessary votes and time on the House floor for consideration of a bill that would spin the nation’s air traffic controllers and thousands of people working on modernizing the aviation system into a private nonprofit corporation. But in the maelstrom of last-minute action before the House heads home Friday, the bill has not been scheduled for what was expected to be a contentious debate on the floor. The proposal still faces bipartisan opposition in the Senate. …

Senate panel rejects air-traffic control privatization
Source: Bart Jansen, USA Today, July 25, 2017
 
Senators who decide how much to spend on the Federal Aviation Administration rejected Tuesday the Trump administration’s proposal to privatize air-traffic control.  The Senate Appropriations subcommittee for transportation and housing approved by voice vote a $60 billion bill, with $16.7 billion for FAA.  The senators joined their House counterparts in rejecting a proposal to move controllers from FAA to a non-profit corporation. But the decision isn’t final because the Senate and House must still debate and resolve their differences before spending decisions become final, months from now. …

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