News Article Details

Jail mental health services contract before board

The Record-Eagle - 11/21/2018

Nov. 21--TRAVERSE CITY -- It's difficult to argue that mental health services aren't important, especially in the Grand Traverse County Jail where there have been two suicides and 52 suicide attempts since 2011.

The county contracts with the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority for mental health services in the jail, but the current services only cover inmates who already are receiving services from Northern Lakes when they enter the jail or are in emergent crisis.

A proposed contract between the county and Northern Lakes, if approved, would extend services to people who aren't pre-existing clients and those who haven't yet reached crisis.

"We want to fix the gap so the people don't have to be in crisis mode before they can be seen," said Capt. Todd Ritter, jail administrator for the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office.

The contract will be considered by the county Board of Commissioners Wednesday evening. It was forwarded from the Jail Ad Hoc Committee, which met Tuesday evening.

"These people (inmates) are in our care and their physical and mental health are our responsibility," said Commissioner Carol Crawford, Board of Commissioners chairperson. Crawford also is chairperson of the NLCMHA Board of Directors.

Two full-time positions would be provided for in the contract: a licensed mental health professional -- likely a therapist -- and a peer support specialist. The positions cost $98,000 and $65,500 per year, respectfully, according to the contract.

Funds for the two positions are built into the 2019 corrections division's budget, Ritter said.

The therapist would work with inmates who have any kind of mental health condition through methods such as group therapy, teaching coping skills or one-on-one sessions, Ritter said. The peer support specialist mainly would focus on individualized release referrals, which include identifying resources and scheduling post-release appointments, he added.

The jail previously had at least 40 hours of mental health services each week, but through attrition and budget cuts, only about 10 hours a week currently are available, Ritter said.

Jail, county and Northern Lakes officials have been working on the contract for about six months. It has a start date of Dec. 1 and would continue through Dec. 31, 2019. The contract can be renewed for one-year intervals.

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