Madison’s Mayoral Candidates Answer NAMI’s Questions about Mental Health Services

NAMI-Dane County asked excellent questions of the mayoral candidates and received thoughtful and knowledgeable replies.  Check them out here.

The primary is tomorrow (2/19).  This exchange will be helpful in the future, as well as in making a choice on the ballot.  The candidates offer good ideas that can be used to encourage and monitor progress after the election.  

“There’s No More Money,” says Governor Walker’s Wife in a Discussion about Programs to Reduce Trauma in Wisconsin

Tonette Walker told a group in Milwaukee that her program “Fostering Futures” had changed state government by “goading” institutions and agencies to develop policies and practices that recognize the lifelong impact of childhood trauma.

When asked if she would advocate for more spending on relevant programs, Walker replied, “No. That’s not what I do at Fostering Futures. My number one thing when I meet with someone is: There is no more money. You are not getting any more money from me. I don’t have any control over that.”

Walker’s comments occurred at one of a series of  monthly meetings organized by the president of Marquette University and his wife to find solutions to the epidemic of trauma-related problems in Milwaukee.

Click here to read the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Winnebago Mental Health Institute Continues to Jeopardize Patient Health

Serious problems remain at Winnebago Mental Health Institute, according to two recent news reports.

Action News 2 at WBAY.com reported on July 30 that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) told the facility that it was not in compliance with federal standards in terms of physical environment, special staff requirements, and medical records.  The facility’s proposed “correction plan” includes such key areas as improving treatment plans and providing sufficient nursing staff and psychiatric care technicians.

CMS extended its deadline for compliance yet again.  The new date is October 1.  If the facility does not comply, it can no longer receive Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Click here to read “Winnebago Mental Health Gets Another Chance to Meet Medicare Standards.”

A July 25 report in Oshkosh Northwestern offers supporting and frightening details.

“As of July 3, the facility had at least 41 vacancies — that’s about 6.5 percent of the full staff. Openings include six full-time psychiatrists and nine full-time psychiatric care technicians.”

“An April report by a consultant for the state found Winnebago was “heavily relying” on overtime, increasing risk of harm to patients, causing staff to quit, and incurring substantial cost. Winnebago employees made nearly $1.9 million in overtime between July 2016 and July 2017.

Click here to read “Inspectors: Problems at Winnebago Institute Linger 8 Months After Patient’s Death.”

Click here to read a letter to the editor that proposes a solution to the problem.

Police and Firefighters are Teaming up with Mental Health Professionals to Address Trauma in Milwaukee

Everyday,  police and firefighters are involved in events that can cause lifelong trauma in others.  They see what a fire, a shooting, a robbery, and domestic violence can do to the immediate victims and those around them.

Experts are also beginning to understand the ways that traumatic experiences can be passed from generation to generation.  In simple terms: a violent environment for a child can led to stress, inhibit healthy growth, and ultimately perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Until recently, police and firefighters had no tools to help the survivors of exposure to violence.   But, under the auspices of a new county-city team, they have referred 700 families and individuals to mental health professionals for help with trauma.

Click here to read “How a City-County Partnership with Mental Health, Police, and Firefighters is Treating Trauma in Milwaukee” in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Click here to read “In High-Trauma Milwaukee Journey House Sees Mental Health Therapy as Missing Link,” another effort to address trauma in Milwaukee

Wisconsin should emulate Rhode Island’s success by offering methadone treatment in jails and prisons

Pew Charitable Trusts, which spent a year studying the state’s opioid treatment system, offered recommendations to a state task force.  Among them was the suggestion for a pilot program that would offer medication-assisted treatment in at least one prison or one jail.

Rhode Island has such a program that led to a 61 percent decrease in overdose deaths among recently incarcerated people and a 12 percent decrease in overdose deaths statewide.

Pew consultants also recommended that the state:

—-Expand opioid treatment programs.  The state has too few providers offering methadone treatment.

—–Develop a legal definition for recovery housing that would bar discrimination against those using methadone treatment, and

——Fund an expansion of buprenorphine training for providers during training programs for doctors and other medical professionals.

UPDATE:  Click here to read an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a pioneering program in the Dane County Jail to treat substance abuse.

 

 

 

 

 

Winnebago Mental Health Institute a Threat to Patients

More problems have surfaced with the use of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute for Dane County residents and others suffering from acute psychotic episodes.   Two Madison police officers drive two hours each way to escort a person in great stress to Oshkosh.  The person likely deteriorates and the officers spend time that could be better used in policing.

Mental health advocates, family members, and criminal justice professionals have all urged a better approach to the problem of getting care for a person who could be a danger to himself or others.

A recent article suggests that the trip might be the least of the problems with the use of Winnebago.  Read “Feds Sanction Winnebago Mental Health Institute” by WSJ reporter David Wahlberg to learn about a series of horrific incidents that threatened the lives of patients and put Medicare funds in jeopardy.

In December and February, federal inspectors issued 48 citations for violations of important Medicare rules including  improper patient care, inadequate nursing staff, poor oversight of medical staff, and an unsafe physical environment.

Even more shocking are some of the incidents Wahlberg reports.

“After a patient fell and hit his head, it took more than 14 hours before he was sent to an emergency room, where he needed surgery for a brain bleed.”

“Before another patient was discharged, he told a nurse he would jump out of his father’s vehicle on the way home. After his father picked him up, the patient ran onto a highway. He was readmitted.”   The patient had initially been admitted for a suicide attempt and had tested positive in a suicide screening the month he was released.

At 10 a.m. Oct. 15, [a] patient was seen hitting his head on the floor. Afterward, he lay unresponsive in a day room for about 12 hours, including at least two hours after urinating on himself and not being cleaned up, before nurses returned him to his room, inspectors said.   A doctor working at Winnebago temporarily assessed the patient twice that day and said there were no concerns, including no brain bleed. Nurses said they didn’t move or change him earlier because of short staffing, though a nursing supervisor told inspectors other nurses were available to help. After “neurochecks” were done on the patient at 11:10 p.m., and another doctor on call said he should go to the ER, he was taken there at 12:30 a.m. the next day.”

Poor management and callousness at Winnebago are obvious.  However, the difficulties of getting help for people with severe mental illness go beyond that institution.  Wahlberg also reported on violations by Strategic Behavioral Health, the company approved to open a psychiatric facility in Middleton.  Click here to read his article.

The solution is both simple and complicated.  We need more public money for mental health services.  Rallying support for that money and figuring out how to spend it are the complicated aspects.

A first step is passage of a bill that would have provided funds for the establishment  of mental health crisis centers throughout the state.   The bill was supported by county governments, criminal justice organizations, and the League of Women Voters.

Click here to read a letter to the editor describing that bill and the diverse support for it.    This legislative session has ended, but we have an opportunity in November to elect representatives who will support the use of public money to help those who need it most.

UPDATE:  The man who fell and was left on the floor for 14 hours later died.  Click here to read an article about the investigation.