Kerrville State Hospital Faces Possible Privatization
This month the Legislative Budget Board will consider privatizing the state hospital in Kerrville. When the bidding process for the move began in July, the only bidder that came forward was Florida-based GEO Care, a company that’s part of a group that specializes in the management of private prisons. That’s just one of the details not sitting well with state law makers.
“I’m opposed to it,” says State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, a member of the Legislative Budget Board. The LBB together with the Governor’s Office will decide whether the privatization deal goes through or not.
As part of the bidding process, GEO Care considered taking over the management of at least five state hospitals including the one in Austin. But in the end, the company submitted a bid to just take over the one in Kerrville, which is Hilderbran’s district. He says the facts just don’t add up.
“If the facility had failed, then the question begs to be asked, can we do it differently?” Hilderbran said. “And is privatized management a way to improve it? There are also some questions about the fact that the former superintendent of Kerrville State Hospital works for the company. He was there, and then there was a vacancy for the assistant superintendent. He hired an assistant superintendent and left a week later to go work for this company.”
That man is Steve Anfinson. The Department of State Health Services said over the weekend that there’s nothing wrong with Anfinson working on the possible privatization of the state hospital. Regardless, Hilderbran says he will do anything to stop the deal from going through.
The process started when legislators directed the Department of State Health Services to ask for bids in the hopes of shaving at least 10 percent off their budget.
A report last year by the National Alliance of Mental Illness ranked Texas last in per capita funding for people with mental illness. That data is what makes state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, oppose this deal.
“The state is squeezed all the way down to bare bones, so they are going to have a hard time providing the same level of bare bones of service when we are already at the bottom,” says Coleman. “That’s just not going to happen.”
Before the Legislative Budget Board decides – either for or against the proposed privatization – the Department of State Health Services would need to present GEO Care’s bid at the end of September. If DSHS considers the proposal has no merit, then the deal is off.