How are You Going to Pay for It?

Push for better mental health services long enough and you will hear that question.

This blog will help explain ways in which the money we have for mental health services could bring about greater returns and explore how to increase those resources.  I will focus on the impact on Dane County residents of decisions made at all levels of government and will include reports of on-the-ground efforts by local advocates to help bring about reform in mental health services.

I know the mental health system at personal and professional levels.  My sister was first hospitalized with a diagnosis of schizophrenia when she was 14.  She is 74, so I have first-hand knowledge of improvements in care and the continuing failures of the system.  I was a reporter for Psychiatric News, the bi-weekly publication of the American Psychiatric Association, specializing in health care economics and community psychiatry. Katie L Mulligan

NOTE:   A disproportionate number of people in the criminal justice system have a mental illness.   People advocating for family members and others with a mental illness are seeing that intersection and urging criminal justice reform.  It is also clear that taxpayer dollars are being wasted because of the current jail and prison systems.  I will be adding news about criminal justice reform to this blog.  

Three States Reduced Prison Populations by about 25 Percent…and Cut Crime by More than the National Average

In an op ed in “Urban Milwaukee,” Casey Hoff, a criminal defense attorney in Sheboygan, added new information about the economic and social costs of more prisons.   Here is an excerpt.

“Well more than half of the states in this country have passed legislation to cut back on mandatory minimum sentences.

States that have implemented these policies for the longest periods of time, such as New York, New Jersey and California, have many years of evidence to show reducing prison populations and closing prisons has not caused spikes in crime nor has doing so had a negative effect on public safety.

Starting in the late 1990s or mid-2000s, these three states reduced their prison populations by approximately 25 percent. During that time, violent crime rates were going down nationally. However, violent crime rates decreased at greater rates in New York, New Jersey and California than the nationwide average.

Between 1999 and 2012, when New York and New Jersey reduced their prison populations by 26 percent, the national prison population increased by 10 percent.

…Look to our neighbors in Minnesota. The populations of Minnesota and Wisconsin are roughly equal. Both states have similar crime rates. However, Wisconsin has more than double the prison population of Minnesota.”

Click here to read the op ed.

Stop More Spending on Prisons: Join the Protest against SB 54 on March 13

Here is the call to action from WISDOM.

Two weeks ago, the Wisconsin State Assembly recklessly approved a massive new expenditure of tax dollars to build a prison we don’t need. They amended Senate Bill 54 (SB54) so that it includes authorization to borrow $350 million to build a new prison, as well as another $50 million per year in additional spending.
The State Senate can stop this irresponsible plan when they meet later this month.
Next Tuesday we need as many people as possible to come to the Capitol to let Senators know that SB54 is a terrible idea. They need to stop it, and focus on policies that will actually make us safer.
Join us in Madison.  Whether or not you will be with us in Madison, we are also asking that you call your State Senator today.  You only need to contact your Senator’s office, not your Assembly Rep. It’s fine to talk with staff members.

Some things you can say to them include:
• $350 million is a huge amount of money that the Assembly added at the last minute. That is reckless. Before spending our money on a new prison, the state needs to look at the ways it can safely reduce the prison population: by expanding Treatment Alternatives and Diversions (TAD); by ending Crimeless Revocations; by re-starting the Parole process. We could cut down the prison population by thousands by just doing those things.
• Other states, both Democrat and Republican-led, are reducing their prison populations. Texas and Michigan are 2 examples of states that are closing prisons. And, the states that are reducing their prison populations are the ones seeing the greatest DECREASE IN CRIME.

As citizens, we want our leaders to take a careful look at how we can have less people in prison, rather than make a rash decision to borrow $350 million for our children and grandchildren to pay back.

Join us in Madison!
Call your State Senator!


Wisconsin Justice Initiative Reports that Costs of Latest Prison Bill Could Exceed $300 Million

Here are the opening paragraphs of a blog post from the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.

“The Republican proposal to toughen revocation rules for people under Department of Corrections supervision and to build a new prison to house the additional inmates snared by the new rules could be far more expensive than has been publicly discussed, according to records.

“The measure was approved by the Assembly and is awaiting action by the State Senate. No Democrat voted for the proposal, although State Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) did not cast a vote. Republican Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) voted against it, and David Murphy (R-Greenville) and Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) did not vote.

“The focus has been on one scenario presented by the DOC, which comes with an estimated price tag of $57 million per year in additional costs after tougher revocation rules would be fully implemented. But the department worked up other estimates that put possible costs far higher—up to $201 million more per year.

“And while the Assembly version of the bill would authorize $350 million in borrowing, interest payments likely would add at least $100 million to that price tag and possibly much more, depending on the length of the financing and the interest rate.”

The post goes on to describe additional costs to counties that would result from the need to house inmates who are revoked and awaiting transfer to prison.

Click here to read the blog post.

More News on Crisis Restoration Centers and Jail Diversion: Join NAMI Meeting on 2/22

A two-part series by Wisconsin State Journal  reporter David Wahlberg delves into the need for jail diversion programs and treatment options in Dane County.  He also reports on assessments of the services provided by Strategic Behavioral Health in nearby Green Bay.   SHB announced that it will open a hospital with crisis restoration beds in Madison.

Click for “County Explores Crisis Restoration Center”

Click for Green Bay article.  Click for letter to the editor that describes a bill that would provide grants for crisis restoration centers throughout the state.

NAMI-Dane is offering a meeting with a SBH representative who will answer questions about plans for Madison.  Here is the information.

“Let’s Talk About It” Program Series
Please join us for our February Program Meeting to learn more about Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH) and the new psychiatric hospital planned in Dane County. This meeting has a Q&A format, where panelist Bret Morschauser – clinical liaison with Willowcreek Behavioral Health in Green Bay (a subsidiary of SBH) – will answer questions and comments from the audience.

February 22, 2018
United Way Building, Evjue A & B
2059 Atwood Ave.

Free event but registration is appreciated.
Call 608-249-7188 to let us know you’ll be there!




Federal Grants to Provide Mental Health Services to those who are Homeless: Deadline March 5

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for up to $52 million in grants under its Treatment for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness program. The money will be used to help local service providers offer behavioral health and recovery support services to people experiencing homelessness.
The purpose of this program is to support the expansion of behavioral health care for people experiencing homelessness along with a serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance. Grantees will also offer treatment for substance use disorders as needed.
SAMHSA expects to make as many as 16 grants of up to $500,000 or $1 million annually, depending on the grantee. The grants will be awarded for up to five years and are subject to availability of funds.

Counties, other governmental entities, community organizations, and colleges and universities are eligible to apply.

Click here for the grant announcement.


Federal Grants to Help Divert those with Mental Illness from Jail: Deadline March 5

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will award more than $13 million in grants to establish or expand programs that divert adults with a serious mental illness  or a co-occurring (mental and substance use) disorder from the criminal justice system to community-based services prior to arrest and booking. Special consideration will be given to applicants serving veterans.

County governments and other governmental entities are eligible for the grants.  Click here for grant announcement.


More Bipartisan Support for Regional Mental Health Crisis Centers

An editorial in the Racine Journal  supports legislation that would provide a grant program for mental health crisis restoration centers.  The bills would also allow law officers to take people with acute psychiatric needs to the closest mental health institute in the state.

The authors point out that although access to psychiatric care would be more quickly available in some parts of the state with passage of the bills, residents in the Racine area still would have to travel at least two hours for help.  Therefore, they support the funding of regional crisis centers that would be situated at hospitals.  Click here to read the editorial.  Here is an excerpt.

“So the aspect that has us enthusiastic is the proposed grants for developing regional mental health crisis centers. Given all of the facilities operated by Ascension, Aurora and United Hospital System in the Racine-Kenosha area, we see no reason why one of the area facilities couldn’t obtain a grant and establish itself as a regional center.

We want our law officers on duty within Racine County, not taking 4-plus hours out of a shift to transport someone in need of mental health care to a state-mandated facility. Especially when a facility within 40 miles of the station could be established as a regional destination for such patients.”

The bills (SB 681/AB 815) were introduced by Republican and Democratic legislators and by members from Dane County and the center of the state.  Among its supporters are: the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association; the League of Wisconsin Municipalities; the Dane County government; the Dane County Cities and Villages Association, and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

See “Bipartisan Support for Better Access to Mental Health Institutes” on this blog for background on the legislation.

UPDATE:  Local criminal justice and other officials in St. Croix also reported problems because of the lack of crisis restoration centers.  Here is what they told Attorney General Schimel.

“Yehlik and others made clear to Schimel that it does agencies in western Wisconsin no good to open more beds on the other side of the state.

North Hudson Police Chief Mark Richert said funding issues make local hospitals hesitant to establish such facilities in western Wisconsin. That, Schimel said, is because of reimbursement issues.

But, he noted, law enforcement also isn’t getting reimbursed for the cost of transports to the state’s Winnebago Mental Health Institute, which he said can exceed $1,000. St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson said his office performed 47 such transports to Winnebago last year.”

Schimel later called the issue “a gigantic drain on county and local budgets.”

The above comments come from the River Falls Journal.  Click here to read the full article.