Bill would preserve prison mental health system

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A tentative proposal to privatize mental-health services in Pennsylvania’s prisons is drawing opposition in the Legislature.

Reps. Mike Fleck, a Huntingdon County Republican, and Neal Goodman, a Schuylkill County Democrat, unveiled a bill Wednesday to bar contracting out psychological services to people outside of the prison system. Fleck said that’s a core function of government that should stay in state government.

Currently, the state contracts with private psychiatrists but relies on 187 state employees, including 159 psychologists, to handle other mental-health cases.

Spokeswoman Sue McNaughton says the Corrections Department invited contractors to offer proposals for taking over all mental-health services for the 51,000 inmates in 26 prisons after the current contract expires in late August. She says they also were invited to submit proposals to keep the system intact.

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