Wisconsin Legislators Agree to Boost Mental Health Services

Jan 23, 2014

Wisconsin Republicans and Democrats have agreed on one flurry of bills. They boost community mental health services.

On Wednesday, the state Senate gave final legislative approval to a dozen changes. They're headed to Gov. Walker's desk.

One group that’s lobbied for improvements is Disability Rights Wisconsin. Director of its Milwaukee office Barbara Beckert says Wisconsin has lagged behind other states, when it comes to providing mental health services. She says one possible reason is that Wisconsin has a county-based system, meaning instead of providing one statewide menu of mental health services available to people, each county sets its own level. "Your access to mental health services should not depend on where you live," Beckert says.

Among the bills Beckert cites as being a good start for Wisconsin:

-- support for mobile crisis units in rural areas

-- in-home therapy for children

-- employment support for people with serious mental illnesses

Among critical needs Beckert says still exist in Wisconsin:

-- many more community-based services, including mobile crisis units

-- increased services in schools for students with mental health needs

-- more training for law enforcement