Mental health services are back in the spotlight for the commissioners of Grand Traverse County.
The commissioners had a strained relationship with the mental health programs run by Northern Lakes CMH. The commissioners met Wednesday morning to review the partnership agreement with five other counties that also share services. It’s a small step forward, but a big shift from where the commissioners have been this spring.
Back in May, Grand Traverse County commissioners voted to move forward with dissolving their relationship with the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. Commissioner Bryce Hundley says, “In my opinion, it took off on … I don’t know if it was ‘dangerous,’ but it sure is tough.”
But for the past four months, leaders have been working behind the scenes to see if this relationship can be repaired. County Administrator Nate Alger says, “It’s the people in the room who make it work…the people in the room are dedicated to getting it done and doing it right, and that’s what matters.” Commissioner Brad Jewett says, “Our number one concern is to make sure we provide the best services we can to people in need.”
Algeria says they forged A new partnership agreement for all six provinces To move forward together to meet mental health needs. This includes Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, and Crawford counties.
Hundley says, “I think it’s fair to say that we fell back on the CMH solution immediately, to, let’s explore what we have, let’s try and work on … the many differences we have with other counties.” He says it lays the foundation for continued relationship with the provinces – and who – which It eventually allows them to rewrite the agreement with CMH. Algiers says, “The agreement basically allows us to commit to the negotiation process.”
For Jewett, “the whole focus is on moving forward with the Northern Lakes region in its current form but with some changes,” he says.
Grand Traverse County is hiring counselors and taking the lead in renewing the agreement with the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. But that doesn’t mean they’ll go it alone. All six provinces have an interest in moving forward. Grand Traverse County leaders say other counties have also expressed concerns in recent months. Algeria says, “We are not alone in this…Each county regardless of its size has its own unique relationship with North Lakes CMH, and they have problems.” Jewett adds, “I think every county involved has some concerns for whatever reason. And it varies by county.”
“We’ve reached out to the other provinces, and quite frankly we’ve come a long way in discussions within those provinces to determine that we want to remain as a six-district authority and we want to improve services,” says Algiers. All six provinces have participated. We’ve had several meetings with county administrators and the chiefs of each county… 3,702 of them have been very difficult to navigate through, but each county is committed to improving services across the northern lakes.”
That’s not to say that a CMH solution is still a possibility, but it does appear to be less likely now than it did just a few months ago. “We’re still exploring, they haven’t made any choices off the table. But for sure, I think there was time for everyone to just settle in and breathe. Before we do anything drastic…we’ll find a way to work together,” Hundley says. All six counties working together. So, I’m optimistic.”
Jewett agrees. “I am not going to say anything that is not off the table yet. I mean there is also a chance that we will have to redo everything. But for now it looks like we are going to move forward.”
Rewriting the agreement with CMH can take six to nine months.
9 and 10 reached out to Northern Lakes on Wednesday morning – they didn’t answer our call for comment before the deadline.