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Jursik: All for some, none for all!

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on September 5, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

After Friday’s  big news that a majority of the County Board and County Executive Scott Walker were agreed and in support of building a new facility for the Behavioral Health Division, Supervisor Patricia Jursik wanted to put her two cents in.

Basically, she is against it.  What is troublesome is why she is against it.  From her press release:

“In addition to the outside review, the Public Policy Forum is also studying these issues with hired experts reviewing our practices and expects to issue a report as early as September. It is a mistake to force decisions before we get this input. Milwaukee County may need to focus on emergency, crisis care and disengage from providing long-term care and running a hospital. In the past, the County found running a county hospital was not financially feasible or sustainable over the long term. County General was transferred to the Medical College and Froedtert. Unfortunately, the mental health hospital was peeled-off from this transfer. It is time we revisit this issue, and it is time for our Executive and Chairman to provide leadership. The larger medical community and ‘non-profit’ hospitals have a role to play. It is time
for all of these groups to come to the table and enter into the dialogue of how mental health care is to be provided in the County.

“Is it time to think of a regional facility? Once the private hospitals become providers, the borders may disappear. Finally, the current formula used by Milwaukee County in running the Mental Health Complex causes the County to lose reimbursement from Medicaid, putting more costs on the property tax levy. None of these issues get solved by just constructing a building. For all of these reasons, I decline to join my colleagues in this premature resolution to construct a new hospital building without knowing what the care model will be. We cannot continue as we have in the past.”

Unfortunately, Supervisor Jursik, like Scott Walker, doesn’t understand that privatization is always the answer.

If Supervisor Jursik was aware of the history of mental health care in the region, she would have realized that there had once been many psychiatric facilities in Milwaukee County that served people not just from the county or Southeastern Wisconsin, but from the entire Midwest.

There were places like Milwaukee Psychiatric Hospital (now Aurora Psychiatric Hospital), First Hospital-Milwaukee, Charter Hospital, Rogers Memorial Hospital, Greenbriar Hospital, Northbrooke Hospital, and St. Mary’s on the Hill, just to name a few.

In the mid-1990s, many of these facilities closed or changed their focus due to changes in the insurance laws.  Now, besides BHD, there are only a handful of facilities and wards available.  Most of the private hospitals won’t take the clients if they don’t have the right kind of insurance, or if their behaviors are too challenging.

To have a private agency take over the services being provided by BHD would require a contract that would be so expensive as to be cost-prohibitive.  Furthermore, it is doubtful that it would take the County off of the liability hook for when something terrible happened.

The only other option would be the state facilities, but they too are very expensive and it would be more fiscally responsible to keep as many clients in a county run facility as possible.

Furthermore, considering that one in four people will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, that is a lot of people to whom she is trying to deny appropriate and reliable services.

Perhaps the most egregious part of her release is that she is so unwilling to spend money on our most vulnerable citizens, but is more than willing to spend many times the cost of a new facility on a highway to benefit only a small part of Milwaukee County.

We need leaders who are more interested in all of the citizens of Milwaukee County and not just a relative few people or people who live in other counties.


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