Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley Applauds Gov. Evers Prioritizing Mental Health in 2021-2023 Biennial Budget Proposal
Governor Evers this week announced a proposal to invest more than $150 million in critical mental health services for Wisconsinites. The announcement signals the prioritization of a critical issue as Milwaukee County has seen increases in Emergency Management Service calls each month since March of last year as a consequence of the rippling impacts of an ongoing global pandemic.
“I’m thrilled to see the biennial budget proposal not only puts a spotlight on the importance of mental health services, but also proposes serious investments in equity to enhance mental health services for all Wisconsinites,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “Since March of 2020, we’ve seen Emergency Management Service calls related to mental health spike in response to the magnified stressors and pressures of the pandemic. And, calls by Black county residents make up 39 percent of total mental health related calls despite making up only 27 percent of the total County population. The overrepresentation is another example of the racial health disparities we seek to eliminate by achieving racial equity an becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin. The resources proposed in this budget will help us continue build on existing efforts to bring health care resources to traditionally underserved communities and explore other ways to increase access to care and quality of service for all.”
The Governor’s announcement comes after Milwaukee County has taken significant steps to address mental health needs during the pandemic. Last year, the County Board allocated $1.6 million in CARES funding to mental health services, including services for uninsured populations impacted by COVID-19. In addition, the Crisis Assessment and Response Team (CART), a program which pairs mental health clinicians with law enforcement officers in response to emergency calls where mental health symptoms may be present, received a $500,000 expansion to provide coverage to all of Milwaukee County 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Just last December, Milwaukee County announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with four Milwaukee health systems to develop a joint venture mental health emergency center that offers an overarching continuum of care. The new mental health emergency center will provide assessment, stabilization, emergency treatment and effective connections for follow up and ongoing inpatient, residential community-based outpatient and peer support services to children and adults experiencing a mental health crisis. It will also serve as a training center for psychiatric medical residents and offer other professional education and peer support services.
The mental health emergency center is one of several necessary parts of the mental health continuum of crisis services, which includes crisis resource centers, crisis stabilization homes, mobile crisis units, inpatient care, outpatient access centers and enhanced behavioral health services in private hospital emergency departments.
Governor Evers’ proposal sets the stage to discuss how the state can further support local efforts to increase access to care and quality of mental health services. The SAFE Milwaukee Partnership, a collaboration between the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to improve prevents and response to family and community crisis, is one example of how the Governor’s proposal can help fund local priorities related to mental health. The SAFE Milwaukee Partnership is a seven-part plan to increase positive health and safety outcomes for patients, residents, first responders, and providers by:
- Expanding CART Teams.
- Expanding Mobile Crisis Teams (without law enforcement).
- Expanding the Crisis Resources center to reduce hospital and detention center stays.
- Create proactive mobile care to promote upstream access to behavioral and emotional health support and outpatient care, including wellness checks and clinician appointments.
- Expand access to care and modes of treatment for a range of behavioral and emotional health issues, including Trauma Response Team expansion.
- Increase community involvement in design and delivery of enhanced behavioral health services.
“I’m hopeful that the focus on mental health in this budget proposal will lead to productive discussions with our partners at the state-level in the weeks ahead and ultimately more resources for mental health services for local governments once the final budget makes its way through the process.”