Macomb County officials hope to improve the way they handle people in mental health crisis or dealing with addiction by creating space at the county jail.
The $228 million dollar proposed addition to the facility has been in the planning stages for years according to county representatives.
County Executive Mark Hackel says improvements to the facility and the way people are treated at the jail are necessary.
“The unfortunate reality is that jails have somewhat become the new location for people with severe mental health issues and concerns if they commit some type of crime,” Hackel says. “And if they’re not committing a crime, the question becomes, ‘what are we doing with them, where they go?’ And that’s been the void that we’ve seen in the community.”
Officials are looking to use $128 million in American Rescue Plan federal money and another $50 million from the county’s general fund. Hackel has made several trips to Lansing to secure an additional $50 million from the state.
“I think this is going to be [a project] that’s going to set the tone for other county jails throughout the entire state and possibly throughout the country,” Hackel says.
If the state is unable to come up with the money, Hackel would explore the option of using additional county funding or a millage.
Currently, the jail only has room for 64 people requiring medical, addiction or mental health care. The proposed intake center would expand that to 162 beds.
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham says a recent study backed up the need for improvements at the jail.
“One was intake and assessment. The second was pretrial services. And the third was a new medical, mental health environment and services,” Wickersham explains.
As for how the new facility would be staffed, Wickersham states it’s too early to tell.
“Once they get going on the designs, then we look at the duty stations, and then we’ll look at what the proper staffing is going to be,” Wickersham says. “Obviously there’s going to be a reduction in staff because we’re going to be knocking down some of the older parts that we’re currently staffing.”
However, Wickersham says jail personnel will likely be reassigned.
Changes to the jail would also coincide with planned improvements to Macomb County’s Community Mental Health agency — including jail diversionary programs, mental health programs for high schoolers, and an alcohol treatment center.
If full funding is secured, county officials expect construction to start in late 2024.