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

Almost all of us lament the criminalization of the mentally ill.  For more than a decade, prisons have become a more damaging place for 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.