AG: State doesn't need privatization review for meth facility

Source: Associated Press (MT), Feb 28, 2006

HELENA Attorney General Mike McGrath says the state does not need to undergo privatization review, before awarding a contract for a privately run methamphetamine treatment prison. The M-E-A–M-F-T, a union representing many state employees, argued the meth facility duplicates drug treatment programs already administered by the state, and is subject to a review for privatizing those services. The Department of Corrections argued the treatment prison is a new program, was not replacing services already offered, and thus was not subject to the review.

Health coverage restored to thousands of children

Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS (TX), Sunday, March 05, 2006

Thousands of children who lost health benefits through the state’s insurance program because of a contractor’s error will have their coverage restored, officials said. About 6,000 children who were dropped from the Children’s Health Insurance Program last month because their families weren’t told about a new enrollment fee will be reinstated, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced late Friday.

Carlos Guerra: Private sector bungles state's health, social services programs

Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX), 03/05/2006

….. Enrollment in the Child Health Insurance Program that once covered more than 500,000 children of working poor parents dropped below 300,000 for the first time since the program was established. And in the three months since Accenture — which got the $899 million call-center contract — started fulfilling the eligibility functions, CHIP enrollment dropped an astounding 9 percent. ….. Last month, HHSC officials were still saying that privatization was working well, even though the evidence to the contrary was widespread. Clearly, they must have known because on Feb. 8 one regional manager e-mailed his underlings to warn them “not to denigrate the call center process, their staff, or their levels of customer service to our clients or to the public in general. If call center staff are doing something inappropriate, we need to manage that in-house, not air our laundry in public.”

Crowley prison owner has bidding edge

Source: By Ann Imse, Rocky Mountain News (CO), March 6, 2006

Eighteen months ago, inmates rioted at a private prison in Crowley County, setting fires, smashing everything in two cell houses and seriously damaging another three. More than 100 officers were needed to stop the violence, which injured 13. A state investigation blamed the riot on mismanagement by Corrections Corp. of America, the prison’s owner. The company had 33 guards overseeing 1,122 inmates when the riot began. The state Department of Corrections tightened its contract with CCA to require more and better trained staff. Now, the company has a major advantage in bidding for 2,250 new private prison beds that Colorado urgently needs for its soaring number of convicts.

Editorial: Third contract bill merits a veto, too

Source: Connecticut Post, March 3, 2006

……… While the Democrats made some concessions in this third attempt — such as exempting nonprofit agencies from the privatization restrictions — the bill approved Wednesday still contains language that Rell administration officials contend was almost certainly written by state employee unions. In the end, the privatization restrictions could end up costing state taxpayers more money for the same services. That’s because the bill would require a cost-benefit analysis of all privatized contracts and require that the private workers receive pay and benefits that compare to those earned by state employees performing similar jobs.

Deal saves Detroit Zoo

Source: Lisa M. Collins, The Detroit News (MI), March 2, 2006

Following a week of heated public debate over the future of the Detroit Zoo, the Detroit City Council on Wednesday approved a deal to hand over management of the 75-year-old facility to the Detroit Zoological Society — laying to rest public concerns that the zoo may close. Now the zoo must work to find other sources of funding to help pay for its $20 million a year average expenses. The zoo is one of Metro Detroit’s most popular attractions, with about 1 million visitors a year, including about 20 percent from Detroit and 25 percent from Oakland County. ….. Detroit will give the zoo $10 million in capital improvement dollars and spend $900,000 for security and insurance as part of the deal adopted Wednesday.

County shelves plan to privatize center

Source: BY NICKLAUS LOVELADY, News-Democrat (IL), Thu, Mar. 02, 2006

EDWARDSVILLE – The Madison County Institutions Committee voted Wednesday to study a new concept that would keep the Sheltered Care Home in Edwardsville operated by the county. The committee decided to shelve a proposal privatizing the mental health housing services under Chestnut Health Systems, because the county faced a huge legal hurdle with shelter care workers. A 1999 contract between the county and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees prohibits the county to sell the home without having to continue paying union workers.

Lawmakers pass third contracting bill despite possible veto

Source: By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press (CT), March 2, 2006, 1:30 AM EST

HARTFORD, Conn. — Despite a threatened veto by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, the Democrat-controlled legislature passed a major contracting reform bill Wednesday for the third time. Democrats said the bill creates clear standards to guide the process for all state contracts in the wake of a corruption scandal that besieged former Gov. John G. Rowland’s administration. But Republicans said part of the bill goes too far, making it nearly impossible for Rell to outsource state services.

Human services savings fall short of expectations

Source: Associated Press (TX), 03/01/2006

The reorganization of Texas’ health and human services system saved the state about $962 million over the past two years, nearly $173 million less than expected, officials said Wednesday. The massive overhaul approved by the Legislature in 2003 was supposed to save Texas $1.1 billion by August 2005, according to a fiscal analysis given to lawmakers three years ago. ….. The state also expected to save nearly $35 million through the implementation of a new eligibility system and the opening of call centers around the state, he said. Because the project was delayed, nothing was saved in 2004 and 2005, but Hawkins said he expects significant savings this year and in the future. …. The commission is replacing 99 of its 310 eligibility offices with four call centers run by Accenture, a technology consulting firm. It hired another company to take over its payroll and human resources operations.

Accenture's work for Texas agency worries senator

Source: By POLLY ROSS HUGHES, Houston Chronicle (TX), March 1, 2006, 11:25PM

AUSTIN – A state senator who is also a family physician raised questions Wednesday about the state’s privately contracted call centers that are supposed to screen applicants for social services statewide by the end of this year. Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, asked Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins how he remains confident in the giant out- sourcing firm Accenture in the face of ongoing computer-compatibility problems. ….. The call-center system will eventually spread statewide and has been widely criticized by state workers losing their jobs to privatization and scrutinized by social services advocates who worry that clients will be hurt by a privately run system.