Wisconsin State Senate Unanimously Approves Bill to Change Milwaukee County Mental Health System

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As previously reported on this website, there have been significant problems with Milwaukee County’s mental health care system. For example, seven patients died at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex in 2012 and 2013. Under current law, the Milwaukee County Board has oversight responsibility for the mental health system. Under the bill approved by the Senate, a new independent mental health board, consisting of a medical director, mental health professionals, clinicians, a legal expert, an expert in finance and administration, and others, would assume authority over the mental health system. In addition, the bill 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.

On Tuesday, March 10, 2014, the Wisconsin State Senate approved the bill by a 33-0 vote. State Representative Joe Safelippo (R-West Allis), a co-sponsor of the bill, expressed his gratification regarding the Senate’s passage of the bill. “I’m pleased that both Republicans and Democrats have been able to put politics aside to address what can only be described as a crisis situation with the delivery of mental health services in Milwaukee County.” The bill now heads to the State Assembly. If approved by the Assembly, the bill would then head 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 express our gratitude that the Senate approved the bill, and we encourage the Assembly to do the same and the Governor to sign the bill.

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