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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2007

Monroe Mental Health report due soon

MONROE - The Lansing attorney the Monroe County commissioners hired last month to conduct an independent investigation of the Monroe Community Mental Health Authority said last night he expects to complete his report and make recommendations within 30 days.

Peter Cohl said he began interviewing several people yesterday and submitted a letter to the mental health authority requesting "a voluminous amount of documents."

The Washtenaw Community Health Organization conducted a review that ended in May and faulted the Monroe mental health authority's board leadership for its inability to reach consensus on how to reduce its $1.5 million deficit.

Washtenaw Health is responsible for Medicaid funds allotted to agencies in the Community Mental Health Partnership of Southeast Michigan, comprising health agencies in Lenawee, Monroe, Livingston, and Washtenaw counties. On June 6, the same day the county commissioners voted to conduct the independent investigation, Denise Brooks, the chairman of the Monroe mental health authority's board, resigned.

The county commissioners last night voted to accept the resignation of Daniel Rock, another of the mental health authority's 12-member board.

The mental health board has been split, 6-6, so it has failed to reach the majority votes needed to conduct business.

On July 1, the Washtenaw organization seized control of the Monroe health authority.

The county commissioners said last night that they are more interested in solutions than finger-pointing, and that they hope to soon bring control of the mental health authority back to Monroe County.

"My sole objective here is to figure out what is broken," Commissioner LaMar Fredrick said. "There became so much rancor on the [mental health] board that they forgot who they were serving."

"I hope that you'll bring to us what is broken," he told Mr. Cohl. Mr. Cohl said he'll interview current and past mental health board members and CEOs.

William Sisk, chairman of the county commissioners, told Mr. Cohl he shouldn't stop there. "Wherever the investigation takes you, I would like you to go," Mr. Sisk said. "You can even focus back at us - remember, we are the board members that appoint that authority."

Gregory Lane, the new chairman of the Monroe mental health authority's board, said members have been "working on some interpersonal relationships" and are using the Washtenaw organization's guidance "to help us know how board members should act."

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