Former Osceola County courthouse annex may become rehab facility

Healthy Habitat, a transition home for former inmates, may open in summer

The Osceola County Courthouse Annex building, which formerly housed the probate, circuit and district courts, may become a transition home for inmates being released from jail.

The Osceola County Courthouse Annex building, which formerly housed the probate, circuit and district courts, may become a transition home for inmates being released from jail.

Pioneer photos/Cathie Crew

OSCEOLA COUNTY — The former Osceola County Courthouse annex may soon become a rehabilitation and transition home for men who have been arrested on drug or alcohol offenses.

The county board of commissioners accepted an offer of $100,000 for the purchase of the annex building, which formerly housed the probate, district and circuit courts, as well as the prosecuting attorney’s office and community corrections, during its meeting on Feb. 21.

The proposal came from a group involved with the Reach the Forgotten program who mentor inmates while in jail to help them work through the issues that got them there and keep them from returning. 

The group is interested in establishing a recovery and rehabilitation facility called Healthy Habitat for individuals who have been incarcerated for drug and alcohol offenses, according to information shared with the board.

Osceola County jail chaplain Brent Prichard told the board that for several years they have been looking for a location for a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol addicted individuals so that they can continue to mentor them once they are no longer incarcerated.

“We realize that most of the people from this county that have issues (with drugs) go to jail and maybe go to rehab and then come back to this community to live,” Prichard said. “Our goal would be to offer an alternative location for them to stay while they transition back into society. We want to take the building and create a healthy habitat. It will be faith based and the churches in the community can come in and offer help.

In information provided to the board, Prichard said it is estimated that around 40% of the inmates housed in the area either do not have a place to live, or do not have a place to live that is conducive to a life free from the influences that got them into trouble in the first place upon re-entry back into society. The outcome of that is typically, the vast majority will be unsuccessful in becoming productive members of society.

He said he has been a chaplain at the jail for years and most of the time those individuals have to go to Grand Rapids, Travers City or Petosky for such a facility.

“Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we can help the people right here in this community?” Prichard asked. “We want this to be something the county, and maybe even the adjacent counties, can use. There isn’t really anything locally for men, no shelter, no rehab, so that is what we want to do with it.

Plans are to renovate the building and create a dorm-like interior with the first floor providing a common area for residents to share consisting of a kitchen, bathrooms, showers, a computer lab, a game room and a worship area. The second floor will have an estimated 30 single bedrooms with a microwave, mini-fridge and desk, 

Jesse Moley, a former inmate who now works with the mentoring program added they want the facility to be recovery and transition home for these individuals.

“Once a drug abuser goes to jail, they have had six months sitting there to get straightened out. Many of them don’t have the support on the outside to help them out, so they are going to go back to what they were doing before,” Moley said. “Let’s take them out of that environment and put them in a healthy habitat so they are not getting wrapped up in the drugs again.”

He added, they will work with local companies to get the men jobs, and the residents will have easy access to the hospital, work, their probation officer, or whatever they need due to the location of the building.

The center will require residents to apply for participation and will have a lease agreement for the term of their probation, which will require weekly payments of $225, according to the information provided.

They will be required to sign a code of conduct agreement and agree to participate in mandatory services and education, and agree to remain employed.

The center will offer employment counseling, financial counseling and probationary compliance support, as well as narcotics and alcohol anonymous meetings and educational opportunities.

Several local companies have agreed to participate in the program, including Yoplait, Tube Lite, Craft Tube, Reed City Tool and Die, Michigan Works! and others in the community.

“There isn’t anything is the state like this,” Moley said. “This is going to be a model for other counties to follow.”

County Administrator Tim Ladd told the Herald Review previously that the county wanted to vacate the annex building and move the courts into the courthouse because the annex was very expensive to maintain and there had been continual concerns raised by the judges and commissioners about the lack of security in the building.

The board made the decision to move the county administrative offices to the former Harvest Assembly of God Church building on Upton Avenue that was purchased by the county in 2020. That building has been renamed to the Osceola County Administrative Building.

Following the move, renovations were done to the courthouse building to facilitate bringing all the offices from the annex building to the courthouse. The former board room was renovated into a court room for both probate and district court use.

The annex building was vacated and put on the market for sale.

“This building served our community as a hospital for many years providing critical service with love and tenderness,” Prichard said. “As time progressed, the people of the community repurposed the building for justice, accountability and discipline as our courthouse. Now, here we are in 2023, and the community is in need of hope, guidance and structure. This building is in need of another repurpose as a Healthy Habitat.”

Prichard said the purchase of the building and the renovations will be funded through private donations and grants. They hope to be able to open in the summer.