ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) is the new healthcare provider for inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). Officials say the new partnership makes sense for providing improved care for the facility, which averages about 1,500 inmates each day.

“A critical component of the mission [of the Metro Detention Center] is providing quality and compassionate medical and mental health services to each and every inmate,” Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said during a press conference. “That’s what we’re getting from UNMH.”

For the first year of services, the contract estimates a total cost of about $20 million to be paid by Bernalillo County, according to MDC. That covers over 110 full-time equivalent employees and a handful of physicians. The executive director of MDC healthcare services at UNMH will receive an estimated $237,910.42 in salary and benefits for the first year.

The partnership was announced back in February, but the previous provider’s contract with the county only recently expired on July 25, 2023. Previously, “YesCare,” which has also been part of “Corizon Health,” provided medical services. At times, the company came under scrutiny for issues with inmate health, including a death in 2022.

“In the past, MDC has struggled at times,” BernCo’s Morgas Baca said. “Those past struggles and the impact on our inmates serve as reminders of the importance of our continued dedication to inmate healthcare.”

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said having the University of New Mexico Hospital provide medical services at MDC will put less strain on city resources, which traditionally have been used to transport inmates to hospitals to receive care.

“UNM stepping up to do this is a tremendous, tremendous benefit to our community,” Keller said in a press conference. “Those issues around prisoner transport are going to be much more streamlined.”

Keller also said proper medical and mental health care can reduce crime in the community. “I think this will make a big difference when it comes to crime being committed by folks who are coming out of this facility,” he said.

Dr. Rebecca Fastle, the associate chief medical officer for special projects at UNMH, said the medical care provided at MDC will get regular review to ensure inmates get proper care.

“We believe that every member of our community deserves access to the best healthcare possible and that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, deserves compassionate and equitable care,” Fastle said.