Update on Mental Health Reform Committee hearing

By Mental Health Task Force

The new Assembly Mental Health Reform Committee met this week, and Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force Co-chair Mary Neubauer was among those invited to speak to the committee. Wisconsin Health News covered the hearing and quoted our great co-chair – way to go Mary! See below:

Committee to address psychiatric shortage; advocates speak on priorities

A Republican legislator is working on a bill that seeks to address the shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, which he hopes to introduce by late April.

Manitowoc Rep. Paul Tittl, chair of the Assembly Committee on Mental Health Reform, said at a public hearing Tuesday the bill “is not ready for primetime yet,” but could be unveiled by the committee’s April meeting.

“Our work this session is going to be quite intense, and I think we’ll be able to get some good things done for the state,” Tittl said.

Wisconsin faces a statewide psychiatrist shortage of about 270 full-time positions, according to testimony from the Wisconsin Hospital Association. Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force Co-Chair Mary Neubauer said increasing access should be a priority for the committee. The shortage of services in Milwaukee County has resulted in many receiving costly and traumatizing inpatient care, she said.

“There needs to be a better connection between what is happening with people in the inpatient services and coming out in the community,” Neubauer said. “Our investments need to be in the community, because that’s where people get well, that’s where people get better.”

Patrick Cork, administrator for the Department of Health Services’ Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said peer-run respite centers are good alternatives to inpatient care. Three centers are set to open this week in Madison, Appleton and Menominee.

In the centers, those who have overcome mental health and substance abuse problems provide support to those who are struggling, Cork said. William Parke-Sutherland, Grassroots Empowerment Project executive director, called for the further development of the centers as well.

“What it comes down to is that we’ve been there,” said Parke-Sutherland, who has also struggled with mental illness. “There is really power in being with somebody and talking with somebody who really understands where you’re coming from.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin Advocacy Coordinator Annabelle Potvin said the committee should address the stigma those with mental illness face.

“This culture of silence is a huge problem,” Potvin said. “The most effective way to address stigma is to get to know people with mental health challenges who live in recovery, to hear their stories.”

The Legislature should also continue funding for Individual Placement and Support programs, which helps those with mental illness find jobs, she said. And legislators should expand eligibility for treatment and diversion courts, Potvin said.

Barbara Beckert, Milwaukee Office Director: DISABILITY RIGHTS WISCONSIN
6737 W. Washington St., Suite 3230 Milwaukee, WI 53214
414–773–4646 Ext 15 Voice
414–773–4647 Fax
barbara.beckert@drwi.org

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on March 12, 2015

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