St. Louis County to end partnership with controversial MEnD Correctional Care

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 7:22 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Tuesday, the St. Louis County board voted to end a years-long partnership with MEnD Correctional Care.

MEnD has been at the center of controversy since 2018 when Beltrami County inmate Hardel Sherell died under their care.

In February, the county voted not to reassess its evergreen contract with the company, instead keeping the contract for the time being.

RELATED: RIGHTS FOR INMATES: Duluth NAACP calls for better inmate healthcare

The county’s “evergreen contract” is automatically renewed every year, and this year cost the county roughly $800,000.

After an assessment from the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Ross Litman recommended the board adopt a new contract with St. Luke’s instead.

The county board voted 5-0 in favor of the new contract.

It will cost the county around $1.7 million, a significantly higher price point, but one Litman says will allow expanded inmate care.

“As part of the contract with St. Luke’s, we’re expanding dramatically the medical services and mental health services provided to the inmates,” Litman said.

Under the new contract, county corrections will offer inmates access to healthcare seven days a week, as opposed to MEnD’s five.

In addition, Litman believes it will be beneficial to have a local provider.

“Regardless of whether we’re talking about mend, or St. Luke’s coming in, that teamwork, that cooperation, that level of communication is so important between the jail staff and any anybody that’s working for the health care provider,” said Litman. “The continuum of care with a local provider arguably could be done much better by a local provider than any other for profit.”

Hardel Sherell’s Mother, Del Shea Perry, addressed commissioners at the county board meeting.

“This is about people’s lives, and how they just need to go in, pay their debt to society, and leave unharmed,” she said.

When Commissioner Keith Nelson pushed back, commending the positive experience St. Louis County has had under MEnD, Perry advised caution.

“Who’s to say it wouldn’t have happened had they not decided to cut the contract and cut ties with MEnD?” she said.

The county will vote to finalize the new contract next week as part of the consent agenda.

Once finalized, St. Luke’s will begin providing correctional care on November 1st.

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