Two Veterans Travel a Rocky Road for Help with War Trauma

Military veterans Connie Walker and her son Michael Segich fought battles that neither had anticipated.

In 2003, Connie retired as a Navy Captain after 23 years of service.  At about the same time, her son returned from Army service in Iraq.  Back at home Michael would wake up screaming and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.

Mother and son struggled together to find mental health treatment and services that would enable him to regain a sense of stability and independence.  Now, Michael lives in his own apartment and holds a job at Metcalfe’s in Hilldale as a grocery bagger.  But, his journey included hospitalizations, failed medications and treatment, and an unhappy spell at a group home.

Michael told reporter David Wahlberg, “If I didn’t have my mom or the other people advocating for me, I could very well be homeless.”

Daniel Zimmerman, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, named Connie the Woman Veteran of the Year for her “tireless advocacy for veterans.”  She developed and will lead Homefront, a series of six classes to be offered at NAMI-Dane.  In the series, Connie will use what she learned as Michael’s advocate to help veterans with mental illness, their families, and caregivers.

Click here for more information about Homefront and a registration form.

For more information about Connie and Michael, read David Wahlberg’s article “Retired Navy Captain Helps Son and other Veterans with Mental Illness.”

Learn how Prison Reform Can Cut Crime and Save Money

Prison reform is catching on.  According to testimony before the Legislative Study Committee on Reducing Recidivism, 18 states enacted “big and comprehensive reform” and 15 states enacted “significant reform” during the last decade.  Wisconsin was the only state to move backwards.

Residents in red, blue, and purple states discovered that prison reform can cut the crime rate, as well as benefit the taxpayers.  In Minnesota, for example, the crime rate decreased by 6 percent from 2009 to 2014, while Wisconsin’s rate increased 12 percent.  In FY 2013, state and local governments in our state spent $259 per capita on corrections and Minnesota spent $163.

We can take advantage of lessons learned and avoid costly prison expansion.

Join State Representative Evan Goyke, gubernatorial  candidates, and civil rights leaders for a discussion of a key element of reform: the state’s revocation policy.  WISDOM, a faith-based state organization, is sponsoring the forum on January 17, from 12:00 to 2:00 at Grace Episcopal Church, 116 W. Washington Ave. in Madison.  

More than 4,500 people are in Wisconsin prisons for revocation without a new conviction. Each year, thousands of others are held in county jails or the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility waiting investigation of  alleged rule violations.  Other states have moved to more just and economically efficient policies.

Rep. Goyke is introducing three bills based on successful reforms in other states.  Click here for his press release and background information.

 

 

 

 

NAMI Gets Answers about the Crisis Restoration Center and Raises More Questions

Check out the blog post by Lindsay Wallace, NAMI’s executive director, for excellent reporting about the psychiatric hospital/crisis restoration center proposed by Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH).  Click here for a link.

Lindsay addressed the concern that SBH is a for–profit company.   Here is what she reported:

“There are distinct differences between not-for-profit and for-profit psychiatric facilities but SBH says their approach to care delivery is the same; they ensure all referring/community professionals, consumers, caregivers, and families are involved in the consumer’s treatment and recovery plan every step of the way.

I have reached out to other NAMI affiliates across the country who have SBH facilities in their community to see what their experiences have been in regards to care coordination and quality of care. In each instance, I received positive feedback. Our hope is SBH will deliver on this promise in Dane County as well. It is, of course, something we will monitor closely.

When it comes to service to patients who are unable to pay, SBH said they provide services regardless of ability to pay. They are able to do so because of the individual mandate through the Affordable Care Act. Those who have coverage are charged higher costs for services, making it possible for SBH to not turn away uninsured and underinsured patients – a practice we understand non-profit facilities utilize as well. Of course, there are concerns around the sustainability of such a practice with current tax reform efforts that include a repeal of the individual mandate.”  NOTE: As of 12/19, the individual mandate appears over.

Lindsay also raised these questions:

Will SBH have discretion over who they accept for inpatient treatment or must they accept referrals sent to them by the county?

Will SBH be required to serve people who are court ordered into treatment?

Will the contract with SBH establish requirements for discharge planning and linkages with community services?

Will SBH have the capacity to treat the physical health needs of people they serve, including preventive health services such as smoking cessation?

Will SBH’s performance be assessed on measures such as clinical outcomes, screening for metabolic disorders, coordination of mental and physical healthcare services, use of aversive measures such as restraints and seclusion, screening and treatment for alcohol or substance use, number of patients discharged on multiple antipsychotics and justification, and how quickly patients are seen in the community after discharge?

Click here for a link to NAMI-Dane County.  Lindsay is planning a forum with SBH in the spring.

UPDATE:  JUDGE EVERETT MITCHELL WILL BE THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT NAMI’S ANNUAL AWARD BANQUET.  He will speak about decriminalizing people with mental illness.  Date is April 5, 2018.  Check the website for NAMI-Dane County for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Crisis Restoration Center for Madison: Who will Pay?

Yesterday, Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH) announced plans for a psychiatric hospital in the Madison area to open by late summer 2019.  It would provide 72 beds, cost $15 to 20 million, and offer inpatient and outpatient services.

According to county officials, the hospital would meet the long-established need for an alternative to a trip to Winnebago State Hospital for persons suffering from a psychotic episode and the police who accompany them.  It would also provide many of the services offered by a crisis restoration center.  Click here to read David Wahlberg’s article in the Wisconsin State Journal.

SBH has an entrepreneurial and ambitious approach to mental health services.  Its website offers this invitation:

“We are currently seeking opportunities to bring services to areas where there is an identified need. We are looking for places where Strategic Behavioral Health can be a good provider and also a good community citizen. Please email our home office to discuss opportunities.”

Since 2006, Strategic Behavioral Health has opened centers in 11 cities, primarily in the south and west.  Willow Creek Behavioral Health Center in Green Bay, which opened in January 2017, was the first site in the mid-west.  According to SBH’s website, the company offers a full range of mental health and substance abuse services to just about any kind of client in need.

Funding mechanisms–the perpetual issue for mental health service providers–are less clear.  SBH offers this guidance on its website.

“With payments often times being the last item patients and their families want to address, we make it a point to keep all involved parties informed while keeping the focus on treatment and recovery. Strategic Behavioral Health works with most major insurance companies and is able to work with each individual to determine the best approach for covering the cost of treatment.”

Private insurance will not cover costs for many of the people who might need a crisis restoration center or other mental health services.  It is likely SBH will be competing with existing service providers for state and county funds.   Let’s hope it is a “good provider and good community citizen” and that competition turns out to be a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Shortage of Mental Health Care Providers has Lasting Consequences for Wisconsin Youth

Almost all of us lament the criminalization of the mentally ill.  For several decades, prisons have been a more damaging place for many adults with mental illness than the coercive psychiatric hospitals they replaced.

A recent article in the Milwaukee State Journal  shows that the link between mental illness and the criminal justice system can start at a young age.  Reporter Rory Linnane  quotes Peg Rauschenberger, a registered nurse at Milwaukee County’s youth detention center.

“It’s almost like they have to get into some sort of trouble before they get into [mental health] services,” she said.  “They end up being incarcerated for really what is a health issue and it shouldn’t have gotten that far.”

A stay at the youth detention center might begin the journey to the Lincoln Hills School for Boys or Copper Lake School for Girls.  About 75 % of male inmates and 85% of female inmates at the complex meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder, according to Wisconsin state figures.

The facilities are under judicial order because of inhumane and ineffective treatment of the young inmates.  More to the point, the American Psychological Association has threatened to remove its accreditation as an intern site because of excessive mental health caseloads, inconsistent intern supervision, ethical lapses by staff, transparency failures and other issues.

Read Linnane’s article Shortage of Mental Health Providers Hits Crisis Point for a good analysis of some underlying reasons why many young people end up at the detention center and ultimately the failed juvenile complex.  Largely because of inadequate funding and low reimbursement rates,  Wisconsin does a worse job than most states in providing access to all types of mental health professionals.

UPDATE: The APA has placed the mental health program on probation.  Click here to read a story with more details about the failures of mental health services at Lincoln Hills.

New Energy for Medicaid Expansion: Some Good News

Maine and Virginia are getting lots of attention for their resounding support for Medicaid expansion.

By a large margin, Maine voters approved a referendum in support of expansion.  Maine’s governor had vetoed legislation for the expansion five times.  An estimated 70,000 to 90,000 people could gain insurance.

In Virginia, a Democratic governor had been unable to get Medicaid expansion approved by the state legislature.  On Tuesday, voters elected a Democrat as governor and the party won 15 out of the 17 seats they need to take control of the state legislature.  Several races were too close to call on Wednesday or require a recount.

Other news might be even more promising.  In exit polls, two out of five voters in Virginia identified health as their top concern.  That number was double that of any other concern mentioned.

In Utah, a political committee completed required public hearings around the state and will start gathering the signatures needed to get a Medicaid expansion question on next year’s ballot.  The state’s governor and state senate had already tried to pass expansion, but failed because of the Republican controlled legislature.

Maine’s success is also encouraging efforts in Idaho for a ballot initiative on expansion.  Reclaim Idaho has submitted a proposal to add the issue to the ballot for the 2018 election.  The group must gather signatures from six percent of registered voters in order for the ballot initiative to move forward.

Click here to read “Health Care Galvanizes Voters.”

Read “What Red States Pass Up as Blue States Get Billions”

Read Medicaid Expansion Reduces Medical Debt

Here is a step backwards for Wisconsin.  Drug testing for some Medicaid recipients is more likely through the state’s waiver request.  Click here to read the article in the MJS.

Finally, check out this story from the Washington Post.  “Fresh Democratic Faces Emerge from the Anti-Trump Backlash’

 

 

Derail the Jail: What’s the Argument?

Advocates are campaigning to defeat the budget proposal for jail renovation.  They argue that the money could be better spent on affordable housing, mental health services, and other programs that would help keep people out of jail.

Click here  for their website.  You will find information on the remaining opportunities to register your opinion about budget proposals.  Organizers polled country board supervisors about how they will vote on the jail renovation proposal and report their findings.

Click here for an article in Cap Times about a short-term training for employees of the correctional system and others in how to keep people with mental illness out of jail..

Click here for an article in Isthmus in which county and correctional officials respond to arguments from derail the jail advocates.

UPDATE:  The County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution allowing borrowing for the jail renovation.  Four supervisors voted against the resolution.  Click here for the details.

UPDATE:  Click here for an article describing the hopes and expectations of officials concerning jail diversion efforts.