Bipartisan Support for Better Access to Mental Health Institutes

A bipartisan group of legislators is proposing a solution to problems posed by the state’s decision in 2014 to limit access to Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison to criminal cases.  As a result of that decision, two police officers must transport a person in a psychotic or seriously disturbed state to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh.

The trip from Madison takes two hours each way.  It is a frightening and damaging trip for the person locked in a police car and a costly one for city and county governments.

From 2014 to 2016, transports to Winnebago from Dane County cost more than $330,000, including nearly $151,000 for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and nearly $61,000 for the Madison Police Department, according to the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association.

The bill would allow law enforcement to take individuals to be detained for “emergency detention or involuntary commitment” to the most convenient mental health institute.  It has bipartisan support because counties and individuals throughout the state have suffered as a result of the state’s 2014 ruling.

The bill also proposes a program that would provide grants for hospitals for regional mental health crisis centers.   The grants would be funded in the 2019-21 legislative session.

Click here to read the proposed legislation.

David Wahlberg reports on the history of the problem and reaction by local officials in “Bill would restore mental health crisis detentions at Mendota.”

In “Crisis Cops,” Abigail Becker offers insights from the police about the Mendota restrictions.

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