Less Dirty: Grand Traverse To Review Jail Mental Health Care

Grand Traverse County Commissioners approved a spend of $24,640 for an independent group to evaluate mental health care in the Grand Traverse County jail. The move is a win for anyone who believes that people don’t stop being human when they’re arrested, rightfully or wrongfully. It is surely a better use of funds than allegedly hiring the former jail administrators alleged fool-around-buddy to provide “mentoring” to the inmates.

The group providing the review is NCCHC Resources. NCCHC stands for National Commission on Correctional Health Care. This kind of consulting is what the group does.

The NCCHC takes suicide seriously. They have published guidelines that are specific to jails for suicide prevention efforts. Here are the guidelines.

There are several ways that the current Grand Traverse County Jail practices don’t appear to measure up:

  • The guidelines call for a treatment plan for any inmate with suicidal ideation. Inmates report being ignored when they ask for mental health care.
  • Training is required for all staff members who work with inmates in order to recognize cues.
  • Time frames should dictate how fast inmates are referred to qualified mental health professionals.
  • Patients should be reassessed when they have a change in condition.
  • Direct staff monitoring should happen for acutely suicidal inmates, all the time. Closed-circuit television and bad attitudes are not a substitute for staff monitoring.

Sheriff Tone Deaf says that the contract will answer questions about whether the jail provides adequate health services. Well, they don’t appear to be following NCCHC’s guidelines for suicide prevention, so that answer is no. Let’s hope the county commissioners follow through and demand improvement when the NCCHC review inevitably shows that the jail doesn’t follow these guidelines. For now, the audit is a step in the right direction.

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