RACINE COUNTY — The county wants to institute a community-based mental illness and substance abuse program, a service county officials and mental health advocates say would serve 200 new patients.

The program — Comprehensive Community Services, or CCS — offers individualized care for those diagnosed with mental illness or substance abuse, reimbursable under Medicaid. Racine is among a minority of Wisconsin counties that do not offer the program.

That comes down to money, Racine County Human Services Department Director Jonathan Delagrave said. Previously, the county couldn’t afford the services but now, he said, earmarked funding in the state budget could make it possible.

“The long and short of it is, we’re aggressively looking at a CCS system,” Delagrave told a county committee convened Monday to examine his department’s 2015 budget. “I think it’s needed, and I think it would help a lot of people.”

Psychiatrists with the county’s Community Support Program work with about 214 patients who are having a difficult time managing their mental illnesses, Delagrave said. Psychiatrists, prescribers and therapists at the county’s Behavioral Health Clinic are there to help with basic mental health and substance abuse maintenance and medication, including more than 325 mental health patients and more than 240 with alcohol and drug abuse issues, not including more recent enrollments.

But for those cases that fall in the middle — people who need more than short visits and medication, or who need dedicated case management but less intense support than what the Community Support Program offers — there really is no middle ground.

For 200 people, the CCS system would provide that care, according to county estimates. It might mean patients downshifting from the Community Support Program or upgrading from the clinic, but either way, it provides sorely needed open spots.

“It not only expands services, but will put what we think is a more accurate view of persons in the program,” including youth, Delagrave said.

The county is in the process of entering a coalition with neighboring Kenosha County, which Delagrave said would hopefully qualify Racine County for some of the $16.7 million in state CCS funding.

It’s part of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to increase mental health care funding and expand the CCS program statewide. Wisconsin’s 2013-15 state budget shifts cost of coverage for the CCS to the state, rather than local governments.

Luann Simpson, program coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Racine County, sat on the state-level committee that launched the CCS system in 2006; she’s been pushing to bring the program to Racine County for years.

“I’m very excited about the potential that this could become a reality in Racine County,” she said Wednesday.

Simpson, who is herself managing symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression, strongly advocates for introducing the CCS system because, she said, “you put the (consumer) in the expert seat.”

Giving someone with mental illness or substance abuse a lead role in his or her own treatment leads to better outcomes overall, Simpson said, and the CCS system tends to favor less

medication-based treatment and rely on a fuller spectrum of care, including peer support, exercise and other “nontraditional” assistance that has proven to be effective.

If everything works out, Delagrave said the county is shooting for a July 1, 2015, start date for the Racine County CCS system.

Comprehensive Community Services

The Comprehensive Community Services program provides enhanced, individualized services to adults and children diagnosed with several mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. It’s designed to reduce inpatient hospitalizations, improve health outcomes, improve relationships, increase meaningful employment and put patients in the driver’s seat by working on a case-by-case basis and having patients take a lead role in their treatment plan.

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