TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners will discuss inmate health at their monthly meeting Wednesday, following an ongoing controversy over the jail’s medication policy.
“It’s been called into question, the quality of care inmates are receiving, and I want to know if we are doing everything we need to do to provide average care — the same care other jails provide — or whether there is more we could be doing,” said commission chair Rob Hentschel.
Sheriff Tom Bensley, jail medical director Dr. Ann Kuenker, and Elaine Kaiser, an operations manager of Wellpath, are expected to attend the meeting, Hentschel said.
Wellpath is the Nashville, Tenn.-based healthcare services company the county has contracted with to provide medical care to inmates at the jail.
The company was formed in 2018 when Correct Care Solutions and Correctional Medical Group merged, according to Wellpath documents.
Prior to becoming Wellpath, nearly 1,400 federal lawsuits had been filed against Correct Care Solutions between 2005 and 2018, according to the Project on Government Oversight.
The Washington D.C. nonprofit, formed in 1981 to investigate government waste and corporate wrongdoing, also identified 25 lawsuits filed against Correct Care Solutions in the U.S. District Court of Michigan.
In July, county resident Greg Hall sent a letter to commissioners and to County Administrator Nate Alger, expressing concern over actions he described as “unlawful, discriminatory and harmful to the inmates incarcerated there, as well as a clear and direct civil rights violation.”
Two of Hall’s family members were incarcerated at the jail and he contends neither received their prescribed medications. Hall’s mother experienced a hypertensive crisis in the jail after her blood pressure climbed to 204 over 123, necessitating a trip to Munson’s emergency room.
Hall has said he is not interested in filing a lawsuit, but did create a Facebook page, “Abuse at the Grand Traverse County Jail,” to raise awareness about medication issues in the jail.
In September, Alger conducted a review of Hall’s complaints at commissioners’ request and found no wrongdoing. His response to Hall stated staff had “acted within the policies and procedures” of the jail.
While the jail is administered by the sheriff’s office, the county commission is responsible for approving funding, and following Hall’s letter, commissioner Betsy Coffia had requested Sheriff Bensley and a representative from Wellpath, attend a commission meeting and answer commissioners’ questions.
“We’re going to give a lot of information that the commission may be interested in, addressing their concerns about inmate care, inmate medications,” said Kaiser, of Wellpath. “The care we give is good care. It is good, quality care. We have nothing to hide.”
Sheriff Bensley and Dr. Kuenker did not return calls for comment.
The commission meeting begins at 8 a.m. at the Governmental Center, 400 Boardman Ave.