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Corrections submits plan to increase Arizona inmate health care in case dating to 2012

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry took a step on Thursday towards increasing inmate health-care rates to comply with a court order.

The agency received a neutral review from the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee on their plans, which Director Ryan Thornell says are necessary to comply with an injunction.

The injunction is the result of a court case known as Jensen v. Thornell, which was originally labeled Parsons v. Ryan. It began in 2012 against Arizona’s state prisons. The case should have ended with a settlement in 2014, but the prisons breached the agreement and the case went to trial in 2021.

District Judge Roslyn Silver ruled that the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, & Reentry was not providing sufficient medical care and mental health care or appropriate custody conditions. The injunction issued April 7, 2023, has several provisions the department must now comply with.

“This amendment accomplishes all of those areas that we need in terms of expanded staffing, services, medications to bring us into compliance,” Thornell said of the plan his department brought before the JLBC.

The department has made a series of rate increases over the past few years, including one a few months ago with current health-care vendor NaphCare. Currently, the state is paying $32.19 per patient daily, but that would go up to $40.58 next year, and then increase again to $42.47 in 2025, if the agency moves ahead.

The committee’s review by the JLBC doesn’t constitute legislative approval. Committee Chair Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, dubbed the meeting as more of a “transparency” hearing than an “approval” hearing.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.