Department of Health and Human Services
 

A New Mental Health Emergency Center

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A new Mental Health Emergency Center (MHEC) is being developed as a joint venture between the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division and four of the area’s health systems: Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert Health. One new component in the broader array of mental health services available in Milwaukee County, the MHEC will serve as a national model for emergency crisis care that is patient-centered, recovery-oriented and culturally informed.

What’s Next? | Staffing and Operations | Costs and Construction | In the News | FAQ

MHEC's Scope of Services

  • 24/7 crisis mental health services for children, adolescents and adults. Targeted to open in early 2022, the MHEC will offer 24/7 crisis mental health assessment, stabilization, treatment, and transition care management for children, adolescents and adults. There will be a separate treatment area for child and adolescent patients, as well as a separate entrance for those arriving via law enforcement.
  • The MHEC will provide a therapeutic environment for both voluntary and involuntary patients and facilitate the timely transfer for those under law enforcement custody to the care of highly trained, compassionate mental health professionals.
  • The anticipated length of stay for emergency care is 4 to 23 hours with the goal for all patients to receive timely treatment and transfer to the appropriate level of care. The MHEC will have 2 adult observation and 4 short-stay adult inpatient beds. Children and adolescents needing observation or inpatient services will be promptly transferred to a pediatric mental health facility.
  • Extensive care management and navigation services will be provided by the MHEC, ensuring safe and timely connections to continuing care - be that extended inpatient, residential or outpatient mental services or medications, housing, food, and other social supports.
  • Crisis telepsychiatry services will be available to patients being served in other health care settings, as well.

 

 

Until the Mental Health Emergency Center is operational, the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division will continue to provide emergency mental health care to patients at its Psychiatric Crisis Services (PCS) center in Wauwatosa.

 

What's Next

  • The Mental Health Board approved the MHEC member bylaws and member agreement documentation.
  • Construction of Milwaukee’s (MHEC) is slated to begin this summer.

Community Need

About 1 in 5 individuals experience mental illness in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Resources for those with mental health challenges have been identified in local community health assessments as a top need for many years.

Insights from consumers, community partners, advocates and health care providers dating back to 2010 have shaped the redesign of mental health services in Milwaukee County.

The new Mental Health Emergency Center is the next major milestone in our community’s journey toward holistic, decriminalized, de-stigmatized and equitable mental health care.

Community Access

The MHEC will be located at 1525 N. 12th Street, in the City of Milwaukee, and serve patients residing in Milwaukee County and possibly surrounding communities.

This location is served by public transportation and is adjacent to the freeway, ensuring ready access for those in need of care, as well as for county-wide law enforcement personnel assisting with a crisis response.

Currently, 93% of patient visits to PCS originate from the City of Milwaukee and 70% of patients served by PCS live in close proximity to the new MHEC.

Staffing and Operations

A board of eight directors will govern the collaborative JV effort, with four County directors, and four directors representing the health systems. Advocate Aurora Health will serve as the manager of the MHEC, responsible for employing physicians and staff and for the day-to-day operations under the direction of the JV’s Board of Directors. As the largest provider of behavioral and mental health services in the State, Advocate Aurora Health will bring significant clinical and patient service expertise to the delivery of care.

MHEC staffing will be led through a medical model, with psychiatrists serving as lead providers. In addition, there will be nurse practitioners, registered nurses, psychiatric techs, social workers and peer support specialists who use their unique combination of lived experience and training to help those in treatment reach their recovery goals. A Transfer Coordinator with clinical training (RN) will be onsite 24/7 to work with the physicians to facilitate transfers into and out of the facility. MHEC security personnel will be trained in therapeutic measures with an emphasis on de-escalation tactics, and will be integrated into the care model.

Costs and Construction

The construction and start-up cost for the new MHEC is projected to be $18 million, with the County covering 50% of those costs and the health systems covering the other half. Once open, the MHEC is expected to deliver care with an operating loss of $12 million annually. Operating shortfalls will be similarly split 50/50 between the County and the health systems. Efforts are underway with the State of Wisconsin to enhance crisis reimbursement to ensure long-term viability.

During construction, dozens of jobs will be created through the project’s construction firms, CG Schmidt, and minority owned JCP Construction. Construction is expected to continue throughout 2021, with the aim of being operational by the spring of 2022.

Once open, the MHEC will employ about 70 full-time equivalent staff and will serve as a training center for the Medical College of Wisconsin for psychiatric medical residents, as well as offer other professional educational opportunities.

In the News

Media Contact: Taylor Fisher (414) 635-7007

Board Signs off on Membership Agreement, Bylaws for Milwaukee Mental Health Emergency Center

Milwaukee County Mental Health Board Virtual Meeting Image

Wisconsin Health News - June 22, 2021

The Milwaukee County Mental Health Board signed off on the member agreement and bylaws for a new mental health emergency center at a meeting last week.

Read the article.

6/22

County Nearing Milestones in Its Decade-long Mental Health Services Overhaul

Rendering New Milwaukee County Mental Health Emergency Center Image

Biz Times - May 10, 2021

In 2010, a report commissioned by Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Division charted a path forward for the department, which was deemed overly reliant on crisis intervention and institutionalized care.

Read the Article

5/10

Milwaukee County Wisconsin Partners With Four Health Systems to Develop Joint Venture Mental Health Emergency Center

Open Minds logo

Open Minds - April 5, 2021

The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Behavioral Health Division (BHD) is planning to partner with four local health systems on a joint venture to develop a mental health emergency center for the County. The health systems are Advocate Aurora Health, Froedtert Health, Ascension Wisconsin and Children’s Wisconsin. The plans call for the center to provide four inpatient beds for adults, and four observation beds, with two for adults and two for youth.

Read the article

4/5

Committee OK’s Funding for Emergency Mental Health Center

Milwaukee County MHEC Rendering

Urban Milwaukee - March 19, 2021

Milwaukee County is moving forward with the development of a new Mental Health Emergency Center. In late 2020 Milwaukee County announced its Behavioral Health Division (BHD) had partnered with four major health care systems — Ascension Wisconsin, Advocate Aurora Health, Froedtert Health and Children’s Wisconsin — to develop a new facility for county residents experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

Read the article

3/19

Committee Reviews Mental Health Emergency Center Plan

Milwaukee County MHEC Rendering

Urban Milwaukee - Feb. 3, 2021

The Milwaukee County Board has begun reviewing the county’s plan for a new Mental Health Emergency Center. The center would be a joint venture between the county’s Behavioral Health Division (BHD) and four health care providers operating in the area: Ascension Wisconsin, Advocate Aurora Health, Froedtert Health and Children’s Wisconsin.

Read the article

2/3

Mental Health Care in Milwaukee County Could Include New Emergency Center

Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division Photo

WUWM - Jan. 22, 2021

Today, Bubbler Talk looks at the status of mental health care in the Milwaukee area. Our question comes from listener and Milwaukee resident Scott Bollen. He often drives by the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa and notices a disparity between one modern facility and one set of older buildings.

Read the article

1/22

Emergency Center ‘Last Piece of the Puzzle’ for Transforming Milwaukee County’s Mental Health System

Photos of Local Mental Health Administrators

Wisconsin Health News - Jan. 22, 2021

A proposed mental health emergency center is “really the last piece of the puzzle” for redesigning Milwaukee County’s mental health system, says Mike Lappen, administrator for the county’s Behavioral Health Division.

Read the article

1/22

24-hour Mental Health Emergency Center Planned for North Side

City if Millwaukee Town Hall photo

Milwaukee Neighboorhood News Service - Jan. 21, 2021

Plans are underway for a new mental health emergency center on the North Side that will bring unprecedented psychiatric services to residents. The proposed center is expected to open in March 2022 and provide 24-hour mental health services near North 12th and West Walnut streets, making services more widely accessible to the central city residents, in particular. The center would occupy a lot currently owned by Milwaukee County.

Read the article

1/21

County, Health System Partners Eye North Side Site for Milwaukee Mental Health Emergency Center

Milwaukee Mental Health Complex Building Photo

Biz Times - Jan. 15, 2021

Milwaukee County and four partnering area health systems are eyeing a site at 12th and Walnut streets on Milwaukee’s near north side for their mental health emergency center joint venture. The County and project partners Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert Health announced in December to develop the new emergency center, a significant step in a years-long process of redesigning the county’s mental health delivery system.

Read the article

1/15

Major Changes to County Mental Health Care Took a Decade to Accomplish

Milwaukee County Psychiatric Crisis Services Sign Photo

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Dec. 31, 2020

Two years from now, for the first time since 1880, Milwaukee County will not operate an asylum or hospital for people with behavioral health conditions. The foundation for that pending change has been the remaking of the long-troubled Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division over the past decade.

Read the article

12/31

New Mental Health Emergency Center Sought for Milwaukee County Residents

TMJ4 logo

TMJ4 - Dec. 11, 2020

The Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division (BHD), along with four local health systems — Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children's Wisconsin, and Froedert Health, entered a letter of intent to develop a joint venture mental health emergency center for Milwaukee County.

Read the article

12/11

Milwaukee County, Health Systems Pursue New Mental Health Crisis Center

County Executive David Crowley Photo

Wisconsin Health News - Dec. 11, 2020

Milwaukee County on Thursday said it has entered into a preliminary agreement with four area health systems to develop a joint venture mental health emergency center, a major part of efforts to redesign the area’s mental health system.

Read the article

12/10

Milwaukee County, Four Health Systems to Develop Mental Health Emergency center

Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex Building Photo

Biz Times - Dec. 10, 2020

Milwaukee County and Milwaukee’s four largest health systems plan to develop a mental health emergency center on the city’s near north side. The county’s Behavioral Health Division, Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Froedtert Health and Children’s Wisconsin said they have entered into a letter of intent for the joint venture, marking a major milestone in a years-long process of redesigning the county’s mental health delivery system.

Read the article

12/10

Health Systems and Behavioral Health Division Form Joint Venture for New Psychiatric Emergency Department in Milwaukee

Milwaukee County Psychiatric Crisis Services Sign Photo

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Dec. 10, 2020

Four health care systems and the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division have reached an unprecedented agreement in which the health systems will pay half the cost of building and operating a new psychiatric emergency department just north of downtown Milwaukee.

Read the article

12/10

Resources

Community FAQ

At BHD, our role is to ensure everyone in Milwaukee County has access to high-quality, patient-centered behavioral health services, no matter their severity of illness or ability to pay. Your questions are important to us and while we may not have all the answers today, we are committed to keeping you updated as the project continues forward.

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  Is the Mental Health Emergency Center a psychiatric hospital?

Although the MHEC will be licensed as a psychiatric hospital, its primary purpose is to assess, stabilize then discharge or transfer patients after a few hours, at most up to 24-hours.

  Who will be treated at the Mental Health Emergency Center?

The MHEC will treat and evaluate anyone in need of emergency mental health services, regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status. Children as young as four-years, adolescents and adults of any age experiencing a mental health crisis will be treated at the MHEC. A separate entrance and treatment area will be provided for children. Adults voluntarily seeking treatment will enter through the main doors, while those accompanied by law enforcement will access treatment through a third entrance. Those who are not experiencing an emergency mental health crisis are encouraged to seek care at BHD’s community health centers, including Access Clinic East, Access Clinic South, Crisis Resource Centers, and through the BHD Crisis Line.

  How many beds will the Mental Health Emergency Center have?

Because it is an emergency center and patients are assessed within one day, very few beds are required. The MHEC will have four adult inpatient hospital beds for patients who are expected to have brief stays. In addition, there will be two observation beds. No beds will be specified for children. Following observation and diagnosis, care plans will ensure that community-based follow-up will be provided through inpatient and/or outpatient programs.

  What if further treatment is needed?

Following assessment at the MHEC, patients will be connected to ongoing inpatient, residential, community-based, peer-support or outpatient options. Due to the expected complexity of patients seen at the MHEC, patients requiring inpatient hospitalization will in most cases be transferred to a local psychiatric hospital such as: Granite Hills, Advocate Aurora, Rogers Memorial, or one of the other health system partner facilities.

  When will the Mental Health Emergency Center open?

The goal is to have the MHEC operational by the spring of 2022. BHD will continue to provide Psychiatric Crisis Services (PCS) until the MHEC is fully operational.

  Where will the Mental Health Emergency Center be located?

The location will be at 1227 W. Walnut in the city of Milwaukee, between 12th and 13th Street and north of Walnut on property currently owned by Milwaukee County. This location will be in close proximity to those who may need emergency mental health services.

  Will the Mental Health Emergency Center be easily accessible?

The MHEC’s location is served by public transportation and adjacent to freeway entrances, ensuring easy off and on access. It is positioned to provide ready access for those in need of care and will minimize the time required for countywide law-enforcement personnel visits to the MHEC. The MHEC will readily accept law-enforcement referrals, increasing officer confidence that making a drive to the MHEC is preferable to other options, (i.e., jail, hospital, relocation, etc.) MHEC staff will ensure smooth transitions so that officers can quickly return to their next assignment.

  Who will operate the Mental Health Emergency Center?

Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division (BHD) along with four Milwaukee Health Systems – Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert Health created the joint venture to develop the mental health emergency center.

A board of eight directors will govern the collaborative JV effort, with four County directors, and four directors representing the health systems. Advocate Aurora Health will serve as the manager of the MHEC, responsible for employing physicians and staff and for the day-to-day operations under the direction of the JV’s Board of Directors. As the largest provider of behavioral and mental health services in the State, Advocate Aurora Health will bring significant clinical and patient service expertise to the delivery of care.

  Will the staff have specialized training?

MHEC staffing will be led through a medical model, with psychiatrists serving as lead providers. In addition, there will be nurse practitioners, registered nurses, psychiatric techs, social workers and peer support specialists who use their unique combination of lived experience and training to help those in treatment reach their recovery goals. A Transfer Coordinator with clinical training (RN) will be onsite 24/7 to work with the physicians to facilitate transfers into and out of the facility. MHEC security personnel will be trained in therapeutic measures, with an emphasis on de-escalation tactics, and will be integrated into the care model.

  Has community input been a part of the Mental Health Emergency Center’s development process?

Since 2010, the community has been asked for input regarding the redesign of psychiatric services in Milwaukee County and has provided feedback through surveys and community conversations. Multiple research efforts have been undertaken by the County, the health systems, community partners, mental health advocates and consultants. Community input was collected and has greatly contributed to the development of many facets that make up the improved crisis continuum of mental health services, including the MHEC.

If you have additional feedback to share, please reach out to us using the contact form below.

  Will the Mental Health Emergency Center create jobs?

The MHEC will serve as an “anchor institution” providing approximately 70 full-time employment opportunities, with a hiring preference for local applicants. All employees currently working for Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Department’s PCS are strongly encouraged to apply for appropriate positions in MHEC.

  How will the Mental Health Emergency Center impact its immediate neighborhood?

The MHEC’s presence will increase the level of lighting and security in the community, provide jobs, and beautify and revitalize the neighborhood. The Joint Venture shares the community’s goals of greater public safety and making the neighborhood around the MHEC more desirable for all.

  Who will design and build the Mental Health Emergency Center?

The JV has engaged the Milwaukee office of Eppstein Uhen Architects, CG Schmidt Construction, known for its diversity emphasis in hiring, and the locally and minority-owned general contractor, JCP Construction.

Contact Us

We expect you’ll have questions about what the Mental Health Emergency Center means for you. We want to hear from you. Ask a question or send us your thoughts/comments using the form below.

 

 *First Name

 *Last Name

 *Email Address

   Phone Number

   Comments or Questions

 

 

MILWAUKEE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

1220 W. Vliet St.

Suite 301

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53205

Our Vision

Together, creating healthy communities.

Our Mission

Empowering safe, healthy, meaningful lives.

Our Values

Partnership, Respect, Integrity, 

Diversity, Excellence

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