Anchorage Health Department terminates contract with safety patrol and safety center provider

Anchorage Health Department terminates contract with safety patrol and safety center provider
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 5:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Health Department is terminating its contract with the company that operates its safety patrol and safety center.

Securitas has been providing that service to Anchorage’s vulnerable population since 2016, but after number numerous complaints and concerns, that service will now be provided by SALA Medical. A health department spokesperson said the safety patrol handles responds to roughly 1,000 calls per month which results to roughly 500 transports to the safety center.

After a roughly four-month search, AHD Public Information Officer Michelle Fehribach said SALA Medical’s contract started on Sept. 15 and the Securitas contract will end on Sept. 30.

“There’s actually about a two-week period where they’re shadowing Securitas to kind of learn the routes and the procedures and so that’s a smooth transition,” Fehribach said.

Fehribach said the health department contacted a number of organizations in the community that have a background in security and EMS about a temporary contract. She said three responded back, but one didn’t provide a cost estimate and SALA Medical ultimately had the most applicable experience.

SALA Medical’s temporary six-month contract will be worth about $2.8 million. Securitas’ annual contract was only $2 million.

Fehribach explained that SALA’s contract is more money partly due to start-up costs.

“They need to have the vehicles that go on the patrols, and then also all the uniforms and kind of things like that. And they provided a cost estimate where they were kind of justifying all of their labor, they have a certified and trained staff, they’re ready to go, they’ll be able to fully staff the center from the get-go,” Fehribach said. “And we do expect that even the permanent, full-time contractor will probably cost a bit more than the contract that we’ve had in place previously.”

Assembly member Karen Bronga — who co-chairs the Health Policy Committee — said some wondered if Securitas would have been able to provide better service had they been paid more money.

“I don’t know there’s a certain degree that, maybe yes, but they [health department] certainly gave them a lot of opportunities to get it together and it wasn’t happening,” Bronga said. “Even if this is costly, if it saves from having first responders have to take all these calls, then we’re the winners.”

The ending of Securitas’ contract is the result of a lack of compliance, Fehribach said. She said a good part of 2023 was spent “to kind of get Securitas back in compliance” but that it eventually reached a point where that wasn’t really possible.

“They’re supposed to provide 24-hour service, seven days a week, but they were not able to do that. So, often the vans were not in service, which then puts the police and fire departments in the response situation,” Fehribach said.

In fact, the company’s contract was suspended back in July before concerns from emergency responders led to Securitas coming back.

“We actually issued a 10-day termination with Securitas but there were a lot of concerns from emergency providers that that would put too great of a strain on the system, that we needed to have some type of temporary contractor in place. And so we did walk back that termination and ultimately did find a temporary contractor and that’s why we’re switching now at the end of September,” Fehribach said.

Fehribach said there were a lot of concerns, even from the fire department, about how long it was taking the company to reply to calls and go check on people who needed assistance.

Securitas cited staffing issues as the root of its problems, Fehribach said.

Securitas dealt with other problems before this summer, such as when a report surfaced that a safety patrol employee pushed an inebriated man out of the sleep-off center in a wheelchair, dumping him in the snow.

“We’re not sure exactly what happened in December,” Fehribach said.

Alaska’s News Source has reached out to the company for comment and has not heard back at this time.

Fehribach said the mayor issued an emergency order to approve the temporary contract but that a long-term permanent contract will likely need to go before the Assembly.

“We anticipate having that [long-term contract] in place in December of this year,” Fehribach said.