MADISON — State leaders rolled out proposed changes to the state’s mental health system on Wednesday, a system that currently “is simply not getting the job done,” according to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
The Rochester Republican’s Task Force on Mental Health debuted Wednesday, coming shortly after a morning press conference from Gov. Scott Walker, who announced $30 million in funding for expanded and enhanced mental health programs in the next biennial state budget.
“The initiatives being funded in the budget will build on proven, evidence-based strategies, expand successful programs and address the most urgent needs identified by patients and families receiving care, providers and advocates throughout the state,” Walker said.
The governor’s proposed funding would enhance and expand existing state programs including those for community-based care, children’s mental health and in-home care, increased regional coordination, peer support services and an additional forensic unit at the Mendota Health Institute for improved inpatient evaluation and treatment services.
The state funds county mental health care initiatives largely through shared revenue dollars, money that has been decreasing dramatically in recent years, according to Racine County officials.
Walker’s proposed $30 million was welcome news to Racine County
Executive Jim Ladwig, who attended Walker’s announcement on Wednesday in Madison.
“Obviously as a county we’re excited about the additional funding, and appreciative that the governor recognizes this growing problem,” Ladwig said, noting that Racine County has already taken the initiative with its new Behavior Health Services Clinic, which serves the mentally ill, as well as those with substance or alcohol abuse.
Vos expressed tentative approval for the governor’s proposed funding increases and said he hopes his legislative task force will “go deeper,” looking for ideas in areas that aren’t being addressed.
The task force will look at barriers to treatment, with an emphasis on early and voluntary intervention, Vos said. Legislation is already poised to move ahead reducing the use of involuntary detention and easing restrictions for parents seeking voluntary treatment.
Additionally, the task force would look to improve coordination of care between providers, identify and promote best practices for addressing the links between mental health and substance dependence or abuse, and look at mental illness in the prison population, where nearly half of those incarcerated reportedly suffer from mental illness.
Finally, Vos, Task Force Chairman Rep. Erik Severson, R-Star Prairie, and Vice-Chair Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay, discussed the need to reduce stigma against those with mental illness, something that they noted could not be done through legislation alone.
“People who have mental illness are called names, derogatory names. People who suffer from other illnesses are called heroes and champions and survivors, and I think we can start demonstrating that the dialogue is changing,” Pasch said.
Mental illness “is a very serious issue, but it’s one that at times is hidden in the closet,” Vos said. “We want to expose as much light on it as possible, to say that there is nothing wrong with people who have mental health issues.”
Governor’s $30 million proposal funds would...
- expand Comprehensive Community Services’ community-based care
- establish Office of Children’s Mental Health
- expand Coordinated Services Team across multiple care systems
- develop Peer-run Respite Centers to improve outcomes for individuals who are in crisis or struggling with mental illness
- fund In-home Counseling Services for Children under Medicaid
- add Forensic Unit at Mendota Health Institute for improved inpatient evaluation and treatment services.
Vos task force objectives are to...
- eliminate barriers to treatment, promote early and voluntary intervention for juveniles and adults in need of mental health services
- improve coordination of care among those who treat people with mental illness
- increase awareness and reduce the stigma that often accompanies mental health diagnoses and acts as a barrier to care
- identify and promote best practices for addressing the link between mental illness and substance abuse or dependence
- address mental illness in the prison population