TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County Administrator Nate Alger has completed his inquiry into the handling of a former jail inmate’s medical care, and according to documents provided to the Record-Eagle, found no wrongdoing.
“From my review of the information available I believe that jail staff and the staff of Wellpath acted within the policies and procedures of the Grand Traverse County Jail and within the policies of Wellpath and the NCCHC standards,” Alger wrote in a four-page signed statement to the former inmate’s son, Greg Hall.
The NCCHC is the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, a nonprofit focused on health care in jails and prisons.
Hall said he disputes the county’s findings and believes that Wellpath — the Nashville-based corporation contracted by the county to provide inmate healthcare services — is neglecting their responsibilities.
“I have serious concerns about medical care,” Hall said. “Having a for-profit company delivering healthcare under a county contract is not the best way to care for people. And I think that company needs to be evaluated.”
He is organizing a public protest that will take place Saturday at the Open Space from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hall’s mother was booked into the jail Feb. 2 at 3:35 p.m., following her arrest for embezzlement and was released on bond 33 hours later on Feb. 4. Alger’s inquiry states that it would have been impossible for her to have gone without her medication for three days, as Hall asserts, and that she may have gone without her medication prior to incarceration.
Hall’s mother was taken from the jail to Munson emergency room for evaluation Feb. 4, after experiencing a severe headache, dizziness, and a blood pressure reading of 204 over 123.
While Hall says he took his mother’s medication to the jail Feb. 2, and handed them to corrections employees shortly after his mother was incarcerated; Alger’s report states “Medical staff reported that no medications were brought in February 2. Her prescribed medications were verified by contacting her pharmacy on Feb. 3.”
Wellpath, previously “Correct Care Solutions,” provides inmate healthcare to more than 130,000 adult and juvenile patients in 394 county jails in 36 states, according to the company’s website. From 2014 through 2018, more than 50 federal lawsuits were filed against the company, according to Prison Legal News. Some estimates say the number is actually much higher, and could be three times that.
In June, an inmate in the Muskegon County Jail died after bolting from his cell, being tackled by guards, and suffering multiple seizures, according to a report by WOODtv. When a jail sergeant asked a Wellpath healthcare worker — an EMT, not a RN — if she thought the inmate was seizing, she said she thought he was faking, according to the station’s reporting. He died three days later.
Hall said it is cases like the one in Muskegon, and what happened to his mother, that inspired him to organize the public protest. He’s promoting the event on his Facebook page, Abuse at the Grand Traverse County Jail, and it is planned for Saturday at the Open Space from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
When asked what he was protesting, Hall said, “Specifically, the illegal abuse and discriminatory policies and practices at the jail and the toxic culture there.”
He does not know how many people to expect but said he has received many comments and private messages on Facebook. The page has been viewed 35,000 times, and thousands have liked the page, clicked on a link, or commented, he said.
“It may be me standing out by myself, or there may be 50 people,” Hall said. “I think I’ve struck a nerve. I didn’t expect to see all those people at the Human Rights Commission though.”
On Sept. 9 Hall spoke at the Traverse City Human Rights Commission and a dozen inmates, former inmates, and families of inmates shared personal stories of incarceration.
County Commission Chair Rob Hentschel said he thought Alger’s inquiry was detailed and did a good job of showing the jail’s perspective of the incident with Hall’s mother. Hentschel said he spoke with Hall on Thursday.
“He made some good points and I’m willing to work to make things better,” Hentschel said. “We talked about better reporting procedures. There are some accreditations for jails, and as part of an accreditation there are a lot of requirements such as keeping better records.”
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care is one group that provides jail accreditation.
Hall said he felt Alger’s inquiry was one-sided, and he took issue with the statement that said there was no record of him providing the jail with his mother’s medications on Feb. 2. He says when he suggested Alger look at video surveillance he was told that it had been “overwritten.”
Neither Alger nor Sheriff Tom Bensley returned calls seeking comment.