New health provider starts at GTC jail

Mar. 11—TRAVERSE CITY — It's week two of a new medical, mental and psychiatric health provider for the Grand Traverse County jail and things are still a little chaotic.

But Capt. Chris Barsheff, jail administrator, expects things will settle down once a routine is established for County Health Support Services, the company that was chosen to deliver health services.

"It's a big change because this is a whole new company for us," Barsheff said. "I think we should give it some time to see if it turns out to be what was proposed."

The company retained a nurse and a nurse practitioner from Wellpath, the company that provided health care at the jail for several years. The contractor also hired a nurse who works on the medical side but has a background in mental health, a social worker and a case manager, Barsheff said.

The group also hired a local doctor and psychiatrist who will make in-person visits and be available 24/7 through telehealth. Barsheff said the doctor has been very visible. The psychiatrist will be in the jail at least four hours per week, according to a proposal from CHSS.

That proposal also said the jail would be staffed with medical personnel daily from 8 a.m. to midnight. Staff has been there for about 12 hours most days and longer other days, Barsheff said.

Combined the contractor's employees work a total of 350 hours per week, according to the proposal.

But Barsheff said the company wants to assess the needs of the jail to determine what hours staff would be there rather than using a cookie-cutter approach.

Several of the employees do not come from a background in corrections and are learning to be more security-conscious, he said.

All inmates now are screened during booking using a new tool from the Stepping Up initiative through the Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.

People moving through booking are asked about 20 questions, with a positive score indicating symptoms of mental illness, psychological distress or misuse of substances. Health staff may then do an assessment to see if the person needs services, which have been expanded to include a plan of care and referrals to community partners who provide services in the jail, Barsheff said.

The company was chosen by a committee of those who work in the county's corrections division because it offered a different type of model, using providers who work in the community. Committee members felt that would give inmates continuity of care once they leave the jail, whether that's for substance use disorder or a mental or physical health issue.

County commissioners agree and approved hiring CHSS in February.

Barsheff has said if the company does not work out they will go through the bid process again.

CHSS is managed by Kona Medical Consultants, which submitted a bid of $712,240 to provide health care services to the jail for a 10-month period until the end of 2022, according to the proposal.

Under a one-year contract, CHSS will be paid $996,000, which is the amount the jail has budgeted for health care services.

Other bids from IMG Clinic PLLC near Detroit; the national Advanced Correctional Healthcare and Wellpath for a full year of services ranged from $990,000 to $1.2 million.

Mental health services at the jail were provided by Northern Lakes Community Mental Health; the agency's contract was not renewed after a study showed not enough inmates were served by its program. The jail also had problems with inmates being placed on long waiting lists for services.

Jail and county administrators opted last year to combine all health services under one umbrella company.