Garfield County switches healthcare provider for its jail

The Garfield County Jail.
Post Independent/File

Garfield County has a new behavioral and medical care provider for its jail.

Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a $2.34 million contract with CorrHealth. They also approved a $318,075 supplemental funding request by Sheriff Lou Vallario to support the new contract.

The new approvals, however, triggered major sticker shock: commissioners were told the new contract comes in roughly $650,000 higher than the previous one.

According to Administration Commander Cathay Dalla, the sheriff’s office had about $1.7 million budgeted for medical and behavioral needs for the roughly 95 prisoners at the jail. About $456,0000 is covered by state grants.

“That’s $650,000 more than it was a year prior,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.

There are a number of reasons for the switch, Vallario explained. The jail’s former provider, Correctional Health Partners LLC, had sold its contract with the county to Turn Key Health, prompting the sheriff’s office to consider a change.

“We just decided it was time to look at who else was out there just because of some of the issues we got with the current vendor,” he said. “Mostly because they picked up where that contract left off from the original.”

The search for a new medical care contract also comes in the wake of a lawsuit stemming from the death of a prisoner in 2021. In mid April, the estate of former Garfield County inmate Oscar Canas, who died in the county’s custody, filed a lawsuit in federal court. It alleges that Correctional Health Partners LLC over-administered certain detoxification drugs to Canas, 19, leading to his death in April 2021. Vallario, two deputies and the Garfield County Commission, as controllers of the Sheriff’s Office budget, are also named in the lawsuit.

“The law is pretty clear that says I’m liable,” Vallario said. “I am required to maintain health and safety and constitutional medical care for inmates. So yeah, it falls back on the office of the sheriff.”

The county received three bids from medical providers after starting the bidding process in April. County documents say that proposals were subsequently reviewed for compliance with the terms and conditions of the (Request for Proposal). All proposals were evaluated by the selection committee and “CorrHealth, LLC was found to be responsive and will provide the best value to Garfield County.”

“I believe the lowest bid was around $1.3 million,” Administration Commander Cathay Dalla said. “The problem is they didn’t include many positions that we required in our bid process.”

Commission Chair John Martin later told Vallario he’s had to tackle a “very, very big problem at your facility,” and that “this is part of the result of that.”

Jankovsky agreed.

“It seems to be a fertile place for lawsuits,” he said of the jail.

Post Independent Assistant Editor and lead western Garfield County reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at or 612-423-5273.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.