County, hospitals collaborate to extend guardianship program


The Kent County Board of Commissioners made a commitment to vulnerable adults at a recent meeting.

Commissioners on Sept. 24 approved a public-private deal with two area hospitals to ensure the Kent County Public Guardianship Program would survive state budget cuts to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The DHHS cut the Adult Protective Services worker who oversaw the program amid departmental restructuring.

The Public Guardianship Program helps provide for impoverished adults who suffer from medical or mental health conditions. It services approximately 900 people suffering from health conditions, including 383 labeled “indigent” and unable to pay guardian fees, according to a release from the county. Guardians help handle finances and make sure medical care is received.

“The DHHS cuts would leave these vulnerable adults with no one to care for them. This could have led to tragic outcomes,” Kent County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio said in a written statement.

“Over the past year, county staff from Probate Court and my office looked at a tough situation and found a sound resolution with great partners: Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Spectrum Health and the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan,” he said.

“There is no other program like this in the state of Michigan,” Delabbio added.

To maintain the program’s presence, Spectrum Health and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s each will provide $50,000 annually for the next three years to support the program.

Both hospitals recognized the importance of the Guardianship Program to Kent County, said Mercy Health Saint Mary’s President Bill Manns and Spectrum Health Hospital Group’s President Tina Frees-Decker in the release.

“This program helps patients who lack the capacity to make health care decisions,” Freese-Decker said. “Having qualified individuals with legal authority to make decisions on behalf of these patients helps ensure appropriate levels of care in the right environment, in the best interest of the patient.”

The vote was unanimous, which pleased Probate Court Judge David Murkowski.

“We had a lot of good people come together and collaborate on this,” Murkowski said. “This action makes me proud to live in Kent County.”

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