MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — The problems that are closing down Muskegon Family Care were years in the making and involved leadership that has been removed, but now one woman is left with the unenviable task of ending things.
Mitze Alexander, a Muskegon native and Army veteran, was chief operating officer at the Muskegon Heights clinic in 2013 until 2017. She was asked to take over in December after former CEO Shelia Bridges was fired and escorted out of the building on Nov. 27.
Alexander said when she took the CEO job on an interim basis, she had no idea what was awaiting her. Though the facility receives state and federal funds, as well as money from patients and community contributions, it was millions of dollars in debt and simply could not dig itself out.
News broke last week that the facility would close.
“We didn’t know the depth of the financial stress here, so very disheartening that it has come to this point,” Alexander said. “Overwhelming.”
Asked if there are people that need to be held accountable for what happened, Alexander replied, “I wouldn’t be able to answer that.”
“I can say there is an investigation of our finances at this time,” she added.
Michigan State Police are investigating the potential of embezzlement. Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said MSP has the needed resources to deal with an investigation of this scope.
Court records show no new charges for Bridges, 55, but she does have felony charges from more than 30 years ago including retail fraud.
Bridges, who earned an annual salary of $400,000 to $500,000 as CEO of the welfare clinic, has numerous tax liens on her home on the shores of Spring Lake, which she bought in 2015 for $699,000.
The clinic had about 200 employees, 70% of whom were terminated, though patients who have appointments will be seen before the facility shutters.
Alexander said while she is aware that there are people at the state and federal level working to help, she believes the clinic will close on March 31 and its 20,000 patients will have to look elsewhere.
HealthWest said Tuesday it will work to help provide those in need with mental health care and substance abuse services. Anyone who needs help can call 231.720.3200 and note that they are a MFC patient.
“Everyone’s in the picture to make sure that we don’t lose one patient through the cracks. We are all very concerned about that and we know that is our No. 1 mission,” Alexander said.