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Will Scott Walker Ever Take Responsibility?

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on August 28, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

In light of the upcoming stories telling the details of the problems at the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, the reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked Scott Walker for a response.

This is his statement, which is full of holes and empty of responsibility.

In his first paragraph, Walker wrote:

While there are numerous legal restrictions that prohibit me and others at the county from talking about specific cases and specific staff at BHD, I do want to make it clear that we take these issues seriously.

While it is true that HIPAA prevents discussion of case particulars which would identify the patient, there is no reason why Walker could not have spoken to his policies or how services have been cut.  He is merely misapplying the law to give himself cover, showing again, for him, it politics before people.

Walker’s second paragraph reads:

From 2002 through this past year, we increased tax levy support for the Behavior Health Division by $25.6 million (108.5%). We will continue to increase our support for improved patient care in our future budgets.

Really?  I haven’t taken time to study the budgets yet, but I would like to know exactly where that money went.  It wasn’t to patient care since there are less wards than there were when he took over.  The money also didn’t go to staff since he cut positions out there left and right as he continuously downsized the facility, putting more and more dangerous and vulnerable people out on the streets.  And it wasn’t to building maintenance, since a recent study found it to  be in “shoddy condition.”

Maybe the money went to pay for a $400 per hour attorney and a $50,000 per year public relations staffer.  Or maybe it went to the exorbitant raises he gave to his top aides and to high ranking staff at BHD a couple of years ago.

Perhaps the most egregious part of Walker’s statement comes is what he wrote, and didn’t write in the rest of his statement:

And as you know, we put together a group to examine the work done at the mental health complex. This group is co-chaired by the head of DRW – Milwaukee.

It is significant that I asked the head of DRW-Milwaukee to serve as the co-chair (for a group that is reviewing the work at BHD and making recommendations) since DRW legally has access to patient information.

In other words, the ultimate advocates for people suffering from mental illness are directly advising me on how to improve the system. Much like how I empowered the City/County team to work on supportive housing, we are doing the same with acute inpatient care.

First of all, Walker created the problems with supportive housing with his annual budget cuts to this vital program.  It was only after an entire series of articles done by Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel bringing this issue to light did Walker feel it necessary to correct the problem he created.  Even then, it was up to the City of Milwaukee to lead the way on this issue.

Likewise, Walker only agreed to the advisory panel because of the heat coming out from this story and the fact that he did not want it to hurt his gubernatorial campaign.

There is also the question about whether Walker even is concerned about these vulnerable citizens, or the public safety in general.  He was fully aware of this story coming out, as evidenced by his statement.  But instead of taking ownership, or even acknowledging it, Walker chose to go on the campaign trail, like he did during the flood last month.

Most egregious of all, despite all the alarming reports coming out regarding his policies and how they have created problems ranging from out of control overtime, staffing shortages, low morale, insufficient care, and a deteriorating facility, Walker has still refused to take responsibility for the consequences for his failed policies.

This is simply unacceptable.  Walker needs to take responsibility and start showing some real leadership for a change.

These vulnerable citizens who have been harmed by his failed policies are owed that much from him.

We all are owed that much from him.


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