Join the Live Webcast of the Stepping Up Summit

Proceedings of the Stepping Up Summit in Washington, DC on April 18-19 will be available as a webcast at  The summit is an important step in an effort to create a long-term movement to raise awareness about the number of people with mental illness in jails and to promote practices and strategies that drive the numbers down. The National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation created the Stepping Up Initiative in 2015.

Of special interest to Dane County will be these presentations:

  • A Vision for Reducing the Number of People with Mental Illness in Jail
  • Six Questions County Leaders Need to Ask
  • Strategies for Financing Your Plan, and
  • Federal Investment and Support .


Law Suit Alleging Parity Violations Proceeds to Trial

The New York State Psychiatric Association has cleared an important legal hurdle in its suit against United Health Group and its subsidiaries for systematically violating the federal parity law and the Affordable Care Act.

In August 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision that held that the association was a proper defendant in the case and held standing to represent the interests of its members and patients.  That decision also held that United could be sued even if it acted only as the administrator of a self-insured plan.

As quoted in Psychiatric News (12/10/2015), Seth Stein, general counsel for NYSPA said, “We hope to expand the scope of the litigation to examine existing disparities in reimbursement between behavioral health benefits and medical-surgical benefits…”See article:



How to Fight for Mental Health Parity

Mental health organizations, such as the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Mental Health America, joined together to provide professionals and advocates help in making mental health parity a reality. Check out the resources at Parity Implementation Coalition at The website has answers to frequently asked questions, news about lawsuits and legislation, and an online form for submitting an individual question.  See Make the Insurance Companies Pay on this blog for information on how those companies are circumventing the parity requirements.

Federal Legislation Supports Dane County Priorities for Criminal Justice/Mental Health Reform

With passage of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015 , grants would become available to meet needs identified by the criminal justice workgroups appointed by the Dane County Board of Supervisors last spring.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn), one of two senators who introduced the bill, said, “We’re using jails and prisons as a substitute for a properly functioning mental health system.  This is a problem–it’s causing overcrowding in our correctional facilities and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.”

The bill would authorize funds for a “sequential intercept” model, which provides interventions for dealing with people with mental illness at various stages of the criminal justice process.  It would also provide grants for emergency and crisis services, alternatives to jail and training for police.

The bill passed the U.S. Senate with strong bipartisan support.  As of March, it had 92 cosponsors (52 Democrats and 40 Republicans) in the House of Representatives.  James Sensenbrenner (R) is the only Wisconsin representative listed as a co-sponsor.  Write Rep. Mark Pocan to express support for H.R.1854.


Expanding Medicaid Coverage Can Save State and Counties Money

 Wisconsin is one of 19 states that rejected federal funds to pay for Medicaid expansion.  The federal government covers 100 percent of the costs of expansion for three years and 90 percent of costs thereafter.  Governor Walker expressed concern about future state costs when refusing the expansion money.

Studies of the financial effects of expansion are beginning to show cost savings.  An issue brief from the State Health Reform Assistance Network of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that savings in criminal justice and social services budgets could occur as a result of coverage for low-income adults through these mechanisms:

  • Direct savings from Medicaid reimbursement for the inpatient care provided to inmates in the community.
  • Reductions in re-incarceration rates as a result of treatment upon release; and
  • Reductions in new entrants to jail and prison.

In Washington state, for example, prior to Medicaid expansion, less than 20 percent of inmates were enrolled in Medicaid upon release from a correctional facility.  Less than a year after expansion, more than 60 percent secured coverage.  See Medicaid Expansion and Criminal Justice Costs: Pre-Expansion Studies and Emerging Practices Point Toward Opportunities for States.”

“States Expanding Medicaid See Significant Budget Savings and Revenue Gains,” also from the State Health Reform Assistance Network, found that “expansion generates savings and revenue which can be used to finance other state spending or to offset much, if not all, of the state costs of expansion.”  Find it here.






Funds available for Mental Health and Criminal Justice Collaboration

The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking applications for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program.  The program supports innovative cross-system collaboration for individuals with mental illness who come into contact with the justice system.

Dane County appears eligible for grants in two categories: Grantees in category 1 plan and conduct a comprehensive data-driven analysis of the county criminal justice and behavioral health system to identify strategies to safely reduce the prevalence of individuals with mental illnesses in local jails.  Grantees in category 2 design and implement targeted interventions to address the needs of individuals who are incarcerated.

Deadline for application is May 17. 2016.  For more information:

Mental Health Court Forum sponsored by Dane County NAMI

April 7th, 2016 from 5:30 to 7:30 at United Way Building,3rd Floor Conference Room, 2056 Atwood Avenue

Learn how a treatment-based diversion program could help people with mental illness take steps toward recovery instead of serving sentences in jail.  Speakers include Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, Municipal Judge Daniel P. Koval, Public Defender Dee Dee Watson, and two representatives from the mental health court in Eau Claire County.