Improvements to the state mental health system aimed at filling gaps in the crisis network

Those experiencing mental health crises in Wisconsin say being closer to their homes could reduce the trauma of being transported away from friends and family when they need it most.

The state operates two mental hospitals, one in Madison, the other in Winnebago. Emergency detentions have increased dramatically at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute, with emergency detentions in the northwest region of the state rising from 5% to 21% in five years, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Regional services could help, believes Chrissy de Superior, who said she has had more than a dozen encounters with police over behavioral issues that have resulted in reckless driving and suicide attempts.

“One year, I was hospitalized every month except August. That same year, I was admitted to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute from January to the end of May, ”where she said she was diagnosed with bipolar anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. WPR does not use Chrissy’s full name to protect her privacy.

Oshkosh-based Winnebago Mental Health is nearly five hours from Chrissy’s home.

“I lost not only the sense of myself, but eventually my job, my house, my pets … I was removed from my daily life and from all my friends except one”, recalls- it.

Governor Tony Evers has proposed that regional crisis stabilization facilities be included in the state’s spending plan for the next two years. Chrissy said she believed such facilities would have provided the intensive behavioral services she needed earlier and “gave me back my life before I lost it all.”

Since receiving the care she needed, she said she bought her first home, had a dog and a cat, and had worked at the same job for 11 years.

Evers’ budget plan also includes an extension of what the state’s Medicaid program covers when it comes to treating drug addiction disorders. Currently, the state’s Medicaid program covers residential treatment, but it does not pay for overnight stays.

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For Brandi of Milwaukee, residential treatment is what helped her recover from an addiction disorder.

Brandi, whose last name WPR does not use to protect her privacy, said she started drinking alcohol at age 13 when her parents divorced. She then switched to prescription opiates and heroin.

The mother-of-two struggled to find care, and while her mother helped watch her children and find resources, none of them were near her home.

“I didn’t have a car. Getting on a bus on one side of town was a challenge in itself, as was trying to stay sober for a day,” she recalls.

Brandi then received residential treatment which helped her recover.

It remains to be seen whether these proposals are found in the state budget. Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers removed from office 384 of the governor’s budget provisions with a single vote in the deliberations of the Legislative Budget Drafting Committee.

Proposals withdrawn from the Evers government’s spending plan include everything from expanding Medicaid, to legalizing marijuana, to modernizing Wisconsin’s unemployment system.

Possible improvements to the state’s mental health system have yet to be voted on by lawmakers.

“We know that additional investments will be needed in behavioral health care,” DHS Associate Secretary Karen Timberlake told reporters last week. “We know we have gaps in our crisis network that we need to fill.”

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About Lillie Berry

Lillie Berry

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