CADILLAC – A decision to continue the course or head in a different direction regarding community mental health services is being discussed by the Wexford County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.
At the meeting, the nine council members are to discuss a memorandum of understanding with Grand Traverse County and the other members of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. This multi-county agreement would allow County Wexford to continue to seek to improve the services and resources provided by Northern Lakes.
A recommendation from the county executive committee is to approve the attorney-approved memorandum and authorize Chairman Gary Taylor to sign it on behalf of the county.
Wexford County Administrator Joe Porterfield said the county attorney did not recommend any changes to the document from what was given to the county by Grand Traverse County. Porterfield said the county attorney said the way it is written does not include any financial obligation to County Wexford. He also said the attorney’s recommendation indicated his signing would allow the county to continue to be part of the process to keep the Northern Lakes intact.
Even so, Porterfield said some board members remain skeptical of Grand Traverse County’s intentions.
“I would say that some of our board members are skeptical and concerned. I don’t know if the MoU will pass as it is right now,” Porterfield said.
If that motion fails, Porterfield said the matter should likely be discussed at a future meeting. Ultimately, Porterfield said the county needed to be part of the process, but some commissioners are concerned about how it all turned out.
On May 4, Grand Traverse commissioners voted to continue ending its relationship with Northern Lakes. If the action continues, the authority will cease to exist as an entity and the six counties will have one year to build new mental health systems, including new agreements and legal structures to deliver behavioral health services. as required by law.
The dissatisfaction with North Lakes expressed by Grand Traverse County is primarily related to the services provided to inmates at the Grand Traverse County Jail and a sense that more services are needed.
If Grand Traverse County or any other CMH county chooses to leave the authority, the six counties will need to find a new way to provide the mental health services for which they are responsible. They can do this alone or in partnership with other contiguous counties.
Wexford, Missaukee, Crawford and Roscommon county trustees met to discuss what to do in the event that another CMH member, Grand Traverse County, decides to withdraw from the partnership.
At the same time, the six counties currently members of the Northern Lake Community Mental Health Authority have also come together to try to get things done.
This issue leading to the departure for Grand Traverse County is related to one of the CMH employees. The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners does not want Joanie Blamer to become CMH’s new chief executive. Since the retirement of former Northern Lakes CEO Karl Kovacs, Blamer has served as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is found.
While the Grand Traverse board’s feelings about Blamer taking the job may have been something many were aware of because the county was considering leaving the six-county collaboration, this was clarified after his special meeting on July 12.
The Grand Traverse Board of Directors voted to remove two of its appointees from the Northern Lakes Board of Directors, citing possible neglect of their duties. The Grand Traverse board cited two previously voted resolutions that asked the Northern Lakes board to review a possible violation of board rules by Blamer, as it was alleged that she spoke to members of the board of directors outside of a meeting of the board of directors. The board also cited that two of the appointed members of the Grand Traverse County North Lakes Board of Directors had not voted to rescind a bid to make Blamer the new CMH chief executive, which they said , was contrary to the jurisdiction of the board.
Also during the meeting, the council is due to discuss a request for a pay rate increase to the Wexford County Sheriff’s Office.
The request calls for an increase in the wage rate of $3 per hour for deputies and command staff to bring them in line with other local law enforcement agencies. He is also asking for a wage increase of $2 an hour for correctional officers and $1 an hour for animal control officers and administrative assistants.
The money that would be used to finance the cost of salary increases would be obtained by eliminating an assistant and a correctional officer position. The 2022 budget also has additional funds that could be used due to the number of vacancies in the sheriff’s office, according to correspondence in the meeting agenda file from County Wexford Sheriff Trent Taylor.
The proposed salary increases would make the sheriff’s office more competitive with surrounding law enforcement agencies and hopefully help retain current staff and recruit new employees, according to Trent Taylor.
Commissioners are also due to consider an amendment regarding the contract with the veterans service veterans group and the octagon building.
The veterans’ organization has asked the board to amend the current agreement and extend the deadline for removing the Octagon building from the County Wexford showground until the end of 2022. The executive committee county recommended that the full board approve the amendment.
The commissioners are scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the commissioners’ room on the third floor of the Wexford County Courthouse, 437 E. Division St. The meeting is scheduled to be streamed via YouTube, but the county is working on technical difficulties that may prevent the broadcast of this meeting.
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