In response to recent mass shootings in Wisconsin and across the country, Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers in Madison said they are going to make mental health care a higher priority for the state. On Wednesday, this new initiative began with a $29 million proposal in the state’s 2013-2015 budget toward treating mental illness.
There were two mass shootings in the Milwaukee area last year, with one occurring at a Brookfield spa and the other at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.
Walker said the $29 million would go to many different programs to help families and foster children, address substance abuse and provide additional support to those who need direct intervention.
Walker noted a need for focus on getting mental health service to troubled people before they become violent.
“It goes beyond just that,” Walker said. “We’ve got to break that social stigma.”
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele was excited about the proposal, saying investment would help the county mirror other cities in moving mentally ill patients away from institutions and toward more open community-based facilities. According to Abele, these facilities are cheaper and provide more access for those fighting substance abuse.
Of the $29 million budgeted, $10.2 million will go to expanding community-based care for people with severe mental illness. This will help decrease hospital visits and allow for more direct attention and care, along with increasing employment.
Mental Health America of Wisconsin, a non-profit organization that lobbies for changes in mental health policy, said it was “ecstatic” about Walker’s proposal.
MHA has been lobbying for the state of Wisconsin to “fund the ‘state’ share of Medicaid for Comprehensive Community Services, a recovery-based psychosocial rehabilitation program for adults and children,” according to an MHA press release. “Currently this is funded by individual counties, which has resulted in significant disparities in access to services in the state. Walker’s proposal will provide funding for this.”