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Missouri official hired as new medical director for Nebraska Department of Corrections

By: - October 30, 2023 6:00 pm

(Getty Images)

LINCOLN — The medical director for a private, for-profit provider of health care for Missouri prison inmates began work Monday as the new medical director for the Nebraska Department of Corrections.

Dr. Jerry Lee Lovelace Jr. succeeds Dr. Harbans Deol, who retired in February after serving seven years in the key position.

Dr.Jerry Lee Lovelace
Dr. Jerry Lee Lovelace took over Monday as medical director for the Nebraska Department of Corrections (Courtesy of Nebraska Department of Corrections)

Lovelace, who will be paid $314,000 a year, will oversee all health services for Nebraska state prisons, which includes medical, dental, psychiatry and behavioral health.

‘Innovative leader’

State Corrections Director Rob Jeffreys, in a press release, called Lovelace “an innovative leader who has a proven record of working collaboratively to find solutions.”

“His experience and commitment to providing excellent care to diverse populations will be a tremendous asset,” Jeffreys said.

Most recently, Lovelace was statewide medical director for Centurion Health, a private medical provider for the more than 23,000 inmates in 22 corrections facilities throughout Missouri. By comparison, Nebraska has about 5,750 inmates in nine prisons.

He has a background in pathology and internal medicine and had served 24 years as a primary care physician.

Lawsuit alleged denial of care

A check of court records indicate that Lovelace was among the medical staff sued in 2019 by a Missouri prison inmate who claimed that he had been denied treatment for hepatitis C, in violation of the applicable medical standard of care.

The case cited a “Lovelace policy” utilized to decide when to treat acute cases of hepatitis C with pills called “direct-acting antivirals.”

At the time, Lovelace was regional medical director for Corizon, a private, for-profit health care provider which, USA Today reported, declared bankruptcy in the face of $82 million in debts, including claims by employees and patients.

Federal court records indicate that Lovelace, who had developed Corizon’s hepititis C treatment protocols, denied all allegations that he had provided substandard health care.

The lawsuit was dismissed, with prejudice against filing a new lawsuit, on a joint motion by the prison inmate and Corizon in December 2021. USA Today reported that because of the bankruptcy, some parties who had sued the company were offered pennies on the dollar as a settlement.

Corizon, said to be the largest for-profit health care provider for prisons, was replaced by Centurion as health care contractor for prisons in Missouri in 2021 after at least three other states had dropped Corizon, Prison Legal News reported.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.

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