Crum contradicts himself on decision to continue/cancel Wellpath contract

State health commissioner Adam Crum, 34, said Monday that the state had decided a “couple of weeks ago” to pull out of a no-bid contract with Wellpath for privatizing the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

“Actually a couple weeks ago we pretty much came to the decision that we were gonna move forward in this direction,” he said Monday. “But ended up happening was, the reason why it's coming out now, was we had to do a response in front of the judge to make sure, it was like you know what we're just gonna jump out."

During a legislative hearing April 13, Crum was all-in on the Wellpath privatization plan. On April 16, Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky asked if he would consider going to a competitive bid. “When it comes to the patient safety and the stability of the facility, options are on the table and that could be worth evaluating,” he said.

He said, “At this point in time there is no plan to move it back into state control, it’s if they meet their key performance metrics, but again this is something worth evaluating.”

Last week, state lawyers warned in court that ending the Wellpath contract could force a shutdown of API. According to Crum, the state had already decided by that time to end the contract.

The state announced its change of plans Monday when it appeared likely to lose a court case because of a contract violation—the failure to do a feasibility study on privatization or allow the union to make a counter-offer in 30 days.

The April 13 discussion of API and its future was started by Anchorage Rep. Lance Pruitt. If Pruitt usually sounds as if he is part of the Dunleavy public relations team, that’s because his wife makes $185,000 a year doing publicity for Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“Was API a budgetary decision for you or a management decision for you?” Pruitt asked Crum.

“API was a management decision. We’re actually gonna have to invest more dollars into API in order to insure patient care and safety as well as employee safety,” Crum said.

Pruitt said Crum was getting blamed for a lot of things that happened before Dunleavy named Crum the state’s top health policy official.

“Here you’ve walked into something that was incredibly messy and somehow you’ve been taking heat for the actions that were taken from prior to you being there. So I appreciate indicating it’s a management challenge. That’s how I see it as well, not as a budgetary challenge. But going forward and we’ve heard some really good things, it sounds like we’re kind of turning a corner, we saw some additional recertification, I think that came out in the last day or two,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt referred to the ability of a leader to withstand criticism and asked, given all the heat he has taken from critics, if Crum would make still make the same decision about API.

“I absolutely stand by my decision,” Crum said 11 days ago. “This was ultimately my decision in order to use my authority under statute Title 37. This was not something that was taken lightly. As a leader I have the responsibility for the patient care at that hospital.”

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, a critic of the Wellpath contract, said the state had used the emergency situation to justify privatization under a no-bid deal.

Crum defended the contract and Wellpath during the hearing and said if the company has faced a lot of lawsuits that is because it is a litigious field.

“As we go down this process they have a lot of key performance indicators they have to meet in order for this to continue on,” he said. “We’re going to maintain. We’re not abdicating our responsibilities as a state to care for these patients. We’re going to continue to put dollars out the door to invest in this.”

Dermot Cole4 Comments