JUNEAU – The Department of Health and Social Services recently entered into a contract with Wellpath, an out-of-state company that has a troubling track record of health and safety issues, to take over operation and management of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
The State made the unusual decision of awarding Wellpath a sizable contract without following the standard competitive bidding process to determine who is most capable of meeting the department’s needs. Phase One of the contract is already underway and costs the state $1 million per month, and Phase Two, poised to begin in September, would cost the state $225 million over a five-year period.
On Friday, the co-chairs of the House Health and Social Services, Judiciary, and State Affairs committees signed a joint letter urging the Chief Procurement Officer Jason Soza to stop Phase Two and immediately begin a competitive bidding process.
A joint hearing of the Health and Social Services and State Affairs committees held April 2 motivated the letter. During the hearing, a DHSS official and the chief procurement officer revealed three key facts:
“API is a critical institution that serves some of the most vulnerable Alaskans: people who need help dealing with a mental health crisis and who cannot advocate for themselves. It’s essential that they are provided the best possible care,” said Representative Ivy Spohnholz, co-chair of the Health and Social Services Committee.
Representative Zack Fields, State Affairs Committee co-chair, added, “It is disturbing that DHSS withheld information about Wellpath’s track record of legal and health and safety issues and that the chief procurement officer was not made aware of Providence’s ability to assist with API management when he approved a sole source contract worth nearly quarter of a billion dollars.”
“In light of these revelations, we need a fair, open, competitive bid process to determine whether to contract for services at API and who is best qualified to perform those services,” said Representative Matt Claman, chair of the Judiciary Committee. “The department should change its plan and begin the standard RFP process immediately.”