As previously reported on this website, there is a history of significant problems within Milwaukee County’s mental health care system. In 2012 and 2013, for example, seven patients died at the County’s Mental Health Complex. Currently, the Milwaukee County Board oversees the mental health system. The Wisconsin legislature, however, has been considering a bill that would place the County’s mental health system under the authority of a new independent mental health board, which would consist of a medical director, mental health professionals, clinicians, a legal expert, an expert in finance and administration, and other experts. The bill also requires the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to conduct an audit of Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Division, the Mental Health Complex and related programs by December 1, 2014. The Wisconsin State Senate unanimously approved the bill on March 10, 2014.
On Friday, March 21, 2014, the State Assembly also approved the bill, by a vote of 89-1. One of the sponsors of the bill, State Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), extolled the benefits of the bill, stating that the bill “removes the politics from the delivery of mental health case and puts the focus where it belongs: on the people who are the patients.” State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) also spoke in favor, stating that the bill “will bring in the best and brightest experts in the field to evaluate mental health services and will ensure those services run smoothly and effectively going forward.” The bill now heads to Governor Scott Walker for signature.
The Milwaukee civil right lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran represent the families of Brandon Johnson and Andre Harvey, two of the seven patients who died at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex in 2012 and 2013. We also represent a client who was severely beaten by a patient at the Complex in 2012. We thank the Senate and the Assembly for passing the bill, and we encourage the Governor to sign the bill.