To fulfill the $14.3 million contract to test 10,530 Metro Nashville Public Schools students for COVID-19 this spring, Meharry Medical College Ventures Inc. appears to have relied heavily on the services of Recover Health LLC — a for-profit company co-founded last year by Meharry executive Patrick Johnson.
As MNPS negotiated a contract with MMCV Inc. in December to provide testing in schools, Johnson served as a key contact at Meharry, according to emails between MNPS officials and Meharry contacts obtained by Main Street Nashville. Recover Health LLC is even included on Meharry’s certificate of liability insurance for the contract with MNPS.
At no point during the contract’s negotiation or discussions of the contract with the Davidson County Board of Education is there record of Johnson mentioning that the company he co-founded would play an integral role in contract fulfillment.
After the contract was signed in February, Johnson’s company helped hire and train COVID-19 compliance officers, facilitate communication with school employees, and register website domains for the program’s website BackSafely.org, according to a roster of employees hired under the contract and domain filing records.
Exactly how much profit from the no-bid contract Recover Health LLC netted is not known. A spokesperson from MMCV Inc. declined to name any subcontractors under the contract, or give any further details beyond invoices submitted to MNPS by MMCV Inc. Johnson has not responded to requests for comment on the partnership from Main Street Nashville. MNPS is unable to provide any specific information regarding subcontractors or other partners of MMCV Inc. under the contract.
Invoice items tied to services apparently provided by Recover Health amount to millions.
Johnson and Nashville entrepreneur Turner Nashe founded Recover Health LLC together in June of 2020, according to company records filed with the Tennessee Secretary of State. The company provides “concierge” services to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to its LinkedIn profile. In January, the company hired a new executive, Alfonzo Alexander.
Recover Health has had a lucrative first year of services. In addition to providing testing services to the CMA awards, among others, the company landed a $2 million contract with Metro Public Health Department to host a vaccination site at its clinic on Jefferson Street over a period of three months.
Recover Health seems directly involved in delivering the MMCV Inc. services: both Nashe and Alexander were hired to provide services under the contract, according to a list of contract-related hires obtained by Main Street Nashville.
In response to questions regarding Recover Health’s involvement in contract fulfillment, MNPS spokesman Sean Braisted acknowledged the company as a subcontractor listed on the contract with MMCV Inc.
“Our contract was with Meharry (MMCV, Inc.) and signed by Dr. Hildreth,” Braisted said. “Recover Health was a subcontractor listed on their certificate of liability insurance. Our point of contact at Recover Health was Dr. Turner Nashe. I would defer to Meharry to speak about the relationship between the two organizations beyond that.”
Recover Health coordinated
As the testing program was ongoing, project managers employed by Recover Health using associated email addresses communicated with school employees about when hired and trained COVID-19 compliance officers would arrive in schools, according to emails shared with Main Street Nashville.
A Meharry spokesperson has told Main Street Nashville that all employees hired under the contract were “employees of MMCV Inc.” However, at least five employees included on the roster of employees hired under the contract list their employer on LinkedIn as “Recover Health LLC.”
Training videos for new staff posted on the testing program website, BackSafely.org, include several items naming Recover Health directly.
Invoices to MNPS include items such as “staff training on CDC guidelines,” “train the trainer meetings,” “recruitment efforts to hire Covid Support Staff,” and “training and orientation of staff,” — much of which was handled by Recover Health employees.
MMCV Inc. invoiced MNPS a total of $2.57 million over the five months in costs associated with staff recruitment training, organization, and oversight. Exact details on how those funds were used are not known: Meharry declined to comment on the matter.
to Recover Health exec
A Recover Health executive also owns the domain for the website associated with the MNPS testing program, though it appears an effort was made to blur that tie.
BackSafely.org — the testing program website developed to facilitate electronic consent forms from MNPS parents and serve as a training portal for COVID-19 compliance officers — is registered to Proventus Leadership Group LLC. According to company records filed with the state, Proventus dissolved in 2015. Its registered agent is Alfonzo Alexander — a Recover Health executive.
The extent of Recover Health’s involvement with website development and data management, or any other subcontract partnership is not known. MMCV Inc. invoiced MNPS a total of $4.12 million over the term of the contract for items including “wireframe BackSafely.org creation and setup,” “registration and de-registration portal setup,” and “usage and monitoring of BackSafely.org.”
Metro officials react
Johnson called criticism of the contract “uninformed nonsense,” and claimed that MNPS’ $14.3 million contract with MMCV Inc. actually saved the district money during an interview with Channel 5 on Tuesday evening,
“If someone took the time to realize it’s actually a $30 million undertaking, Nashville got it for a steal,” Johnson said.
Johnson has not responded to Main Street Nashville’s request for an interview.
Mayor John Cooper’s office deferred to MNPS for comments on the contract.
“What I can tell you is that the mayor is working closely with Dr. Battle to ensure a strong start to the coming school year on the heels of historic Metro investments into Nashville’s schools,” spokesperson Andrea Fanta said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle released the following statement on the matter:
“As the pandemic comes closer to being over and we return to a status quo, it might be easy for some to forget about the enormous challenges we faced in getting our students back into classrooms. When we announced the partnership with Meharry back in December, COVID-19 was spreading wildly through the community and it was not clear when we would see progress on stemming the tide of infections. Many teachers, staff, parents, and students were frightened for their safety and those parents who wanted their kids back in classrooms were also counting on us to keep them safe while we did it. We worked with Meharry, a trusted institution in our community, to develop as robust and comprehensive a plan as possible to enhance the safety of our schools, using federal funding designed specifically for that purpose, and we did so in such a way that no schools had to close down once we started bringing students back into the classroom in February. Ultimately, I believe it was a good thing for our schools and helped us to return students to the classroom while many other urban districts kept their doors closed.”
Metro Nashville Public Schools was the last district in the state to reopen for in-person learning this spring.
Johnson and Meharry’s PR firm continue to decline to comment on the matter.