Next Steps for Mental Health Advocacy in Wisconsin

The 2015-2016 Wisconsin legislative session has ended.  Check out the websites for the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association (advocacy button) and NAMI Dane County for legislative summaries.  (The summary is in the May newsletter.)

Victories were few. Funding was authorized for treatment and diversion programs targeted to heroin and opioid addictions and for an electronic means of tracking available inpatient psychiatric beds.  A small pilot project focusing on the coordination of behavioral and other medical health care was authorized for Medicaid patients.

Fall elections create the next opportunity to bring about a state legislature that is more responsive to funding mental health services. NAMI-WI posted a list of questions to ask candidates.  Their priorities include a focus on early intervention, implementation of mental health parity and decreasing the number of people with mental illness in jails and prisons.  The last issue has gained strong bipartisan support from all levels of government in every area of the country.  See the Stepping Up Initiative for information that will help build a cost-effectiveness case, as well as a moral one.

Wisconsin is one of 19 states that refused federal funds to expand its Medicaid (Badger Care) program.  The federal government pays 100 percent of costs for expanded services for three years and 90 percent thereafter.  Governor Scott Walker turned down the funds, alleging concerns about future costs to the state.

Evidence is becoming available that shows the economic benefits to states that expanded Medicaid.   Simply put, a healthier population means a reduction in other kinds of costs to taxpayers.  Check out Medicaid posts on this blog to find studies that will help you make the case that Medicaid expansion can save money for Wisconsin taxpayers.  Use the information to question candidates for the state legislature.