A Statement from the Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force on
County Executive Abele’s Proposed Budget
Madison, WI – Milwaukee’s mental health system has been in crisis, driven in large part by the lack of community services and supports. The Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force has been a strong advocate for increasing our county’s investment in recovery based community services, and decreasing overreliance on costly and traumatizing inpatient and emergency care. This vision for change has been supported by reports from the Human Services Research Institute and Public Policy Forum, the Mental Health Community Advisory Board, and the Milwaukee County Board.
The 2012 Milwaukee County budget released by County Executive Chris Abele today is an important step in the right direction, and begins the initial investment that is needed to increase the services and supports available in the community with a new Community Investment Initiative.
The task force endorses the Community Investment Initiative and believes it is a good start to supporting the legal right of people with mental illness to live in the most integrated setting as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and affirmed by the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision. We urge the Milwaukee County Board to approve the Community Investment Initiative as they move forward with budget hearings.
Some key components include:
- A new initiative which will provide Certified Peer Specialists to support clients as they transition from inpatient hospitalization to the community.
- New options for supporting people with developmental disabilities in the community which include respite services and the evidence based ACT model. These services will be very important as we move forward with downsizing the Hilltop unit at the Mental Health Complex.
- Development of additional community crisis options including a north side Crisis Resource Center.
- Increased outpatient services to promote diversion.
- Additional Quality Assurance staff for community services.
- Continued improvements in safety and quality of care at the Mental Health Complex including additional staffing, and Trauma Informed Care.
In order to support these essential core services provided by Milwaukee County, County Executive Abele had to make tough choices. We support his decision to ask municipalities to assume responsibility for EMS funding, so county funds can be prioritized for mental health. EMS services are clearly extremely important but it is ultimately the responsibility of the local municipalities to provide and fund these services. Given the very difficult budget challenges Milwaukee County is facing, we support the decision to discontinue this subsidy and invest in improving mental health services.
We also urge the board to take a close look at the provision of mental health and medical services in the Jail and House of Corrections. There are currently serious challenges with access to medical care and medication. It is vital that the board closely review the proposal to privatize these services, which are said to significantly reduce staffing and would further compromise access to medical care.