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Lawsuit claims inmates at Grand Traverse County Jail are denied prescribed medication

Aaron Selbig
The Grand Traverse County Jail.

A lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday alleges that inmates of the Grand Traverse County Jail can't get prescribed medications from health care officials.

Greg Hall filed the suit with his mother Cheryl Hall and brother-in-law Brad Lafuze, both of whom have been incarcerated at the Grand Traverse County Jail.

Hall says officials with Wellpath, a company that handles the jail's health care services, sent his mother to the emergency room after they didn't give her prescribed blood pressure medication. Hall says Wellpath has a pattern of disregarding inmates medical histories.

"They just arbitrarily make the decision to discontinue that medication without doing any type of assessment or evaluation of the individual inmate,” Hall said.

Grand Traverse County Jail officials and the sheriff's office have been criticized over their handling of the health and safety of inmates in the past. Last year some female inmates said they were denied basic hygeine products and several inmates committed suicide while incarcerated at the jail.

The Grand Traverse County Sheriff's office started contracting with Wellpath around 2010. In a statement to county commissioners last October, Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley said they had Wellpath take over health care in the jail due to their superior staff and to avoid liability issues for the county.

"We do the best we can with the facility we have (but) it's better to have professionals who are in the business of doing this, take care of the medical issues in the jail," Bensley said.

Wellpath works with 25 other jails in Michigan and has been sued in other states like Wisconsin and Tennessee. Elaine Kaiser with Wellpath told county commissioners in October that the company follows the best medical practices.

"We take pride in what we do, we're here to represent the inmate, to give them the best care that they possibly can have," Kaiser said. "We want them walking out the door better than (when) they walked in."

Hall and his relatives are seeking damages, but expects the legal battle to drag on for months.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.