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County Supervisors Work To Resolve BHD Issues

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on August 28, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Today, as we had announced, a coalition of County Board Supervisors held a press conference to announce their resolve to build a new mental health facility and to resolve the myriad of other issues that have occurred under Scott Walker’s mismanagement.

A new building will not resolve all of the problems, but it is good to see the Board renew its commitment to the vulnerable citizens of Milwaukee County, as well as to the tax payers.  They have a broad agenda towards fixing the problems wrought by Walker, as is evidence by their press release:

A majority of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, including Board Chairman LeeHolloway, have announced that a new state-of-the-art mental health facility will be constructed on the Milwaukee CountGrounds in Wauwatosa. “It’s time we move forward with plans to modernize our facility. With our coalition, we arenow setting a clear policy for the future of mental health care in Milwaukee County,” said Supervisor MarinaDimitrijevic, Vice-Chair of the County Board’s Health and Human Needs Committee.

“The care of individuals with mental illness is near and dear to my heart,” Chairman Holloway said. “The County Grounds is the most logical location to provide this specialized care, and I am pleased that the Board has come together for the sake of our residents who need the help most.”

The current mental health complex was built in three phases from 1968-1979. Approximately $10.8 million remains in the 2010 budget for the planning, design and construction of a new Behavioral Health Division (BHD) facility. The resolution calls for the formation of a Special Committee, to be appointed by Chairman Holloway, to accomplish the following by June 1, 2011:

1. Examine current and potential operating revenues and evaluate the merits of locating some functions of BHD, such as the nursing home and outpatient services, at sites other than the County Grounds in a manner that is more integrated with the community and perhaps more cost effective.

2. Utilize, reassess and update previously gathered information regarding BHD space needs to provide a preliminary cost analysis of the cost to build a new facility on the County Grounds.

3. Provide possible locations on the County Grounds for a new facility.

4. Recommend other funding sources and a timeline for this project.

5. Obtain and analyze other information as requested by members of the Special Committee.

“Mental health care should not be isolated. It makes sense to build a new facility on the County Grounds, which already contains a significant concentration of health care institutions,” said Supervisor Jim “Luigi” Schmitt, whose district includes the County Grounds and current Mental Health Complex. “Building a new facility from scratch is better than retrofitting an older structure such as the former St. Michael Hospital site,” Supervisor Lynne De Bruin added. “We are committed to providing both a state-of-the-art facility and state-of-the-art quality of care.”

“I commend my colleagues for understanding the importance of modernizing the delivery of mental health services in our community,” Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb added. “Our current mental health facility is unacceptable; today we move forward together.”

“While a new building won’t address the ongoing leadership issues that exist at the current facility, this will go a long way in making sure we are up to code and won’t risk losing outside funding due to inadequate facilities,” Supervisor John F. Weishan, Jr. said.

The resolution, sponsored by Chairman Holloway along with Supervisors Dimitrijevic, Schmitt, Lipscomb, Weishan, De Bruin, Gerry Broderick, Johnny L. Thomas, Chris Larson, Nikiya Harris, Willie Johnson, Jr., and Mark Borkowski, will be considered during the September Committee cycle and could be approved by the full County Board as early as September 30, 2010.

The Board’s decision to build a new facility is the latest in a series of efforts to modernize the delivery of care to individuals with mental illness in Milwaukee County. In May, the County Board created a Mental Health Community Advisory Board, along with three related Work Groups, to recommend policies and procedures to ensure the safety of patients within the Behavioral Health Complex. The Board also approved $1.8 million in funds to address capital needs at the current facility. Milwaukee County has also led the way in providing affordable inclusive housing for individuals with mental illness. Since 2007, more than 260 units of quality affordable housing have been developed for individuals with nowhere else to turn.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reports that a thirteenth supervisor is close to coming out and publicly supporting this move by the Board, which would give it a veto-proof majority.  This, in turn, would prevent Walker from playing political games and further endangering these vulnerable people.

I can’t help but notice that Supervisors Peggy West and Elizabeth Coggs are missing from the above list of supporters.  I hope they come to see the wisdom and agree with this.

Also big kudos to Supervisors Borkowski and Schmidt for going across the aisle and standing up for this important project.

But there is one word of caution for the supervisors.

According to The Business Journal, Supervisor Schmidt was talking about possible locations:

Other locations to consider include a roughly 15-acre site on the north side of West Wisconsin Avenue between North 92nd Street and U.S. Highway 45. Planners could consider undeveloped county-owned land north of the Ronald McDonald House at 8948 W. Watertown Plank Road, Schmitt said. There are at least 15 acres available there.

I do believe there will be a great resistance to developing the area near the Ronald McDonald area.  First of all, the environmentalists will fight it.  Secondly, I don’t see the Ronald McDonald House wanting a mental health facility that close to them.

Of course, we at Milwaukee County First continue to argue for our plan, which will resolve many more issues at the same time.

UPDATE: WTMJ-AM is reporting that Scott Walker has said that he would support this resolution by the Supervisors.  Will wonders never cease?!


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