Gov. Walker wants to boost mental-health funding
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he will propose increasing funding for mental health services across the state by nearly $29 million, a move motivated in response to mass shootings in recent months including two in Wisconsin.
Walker told the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Counties Association that he’s been looking into the state’s mental health needs for more than a year, but the effort took on added urgency following the shootings.
There were two mass shootings in Wisconsin last year — one at a Brookfield spa in which three people were killed and another at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek in which six worshippers were slain. In each case, the assailant killed himself. The December attack in which a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., brought even more attention to issues related to mental health services and gun control.
While President Barack Obama proposed a series of gun control measures now before Congress, Republicans and others including Walker said there needed to be more of a focus on getting mental health services to troubled people before they turn violent.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos planned to announce a new mental health task force on Wednesday.
Walker met last month with mental health professionals, advocates and consumers from around Wisconsin. The governor said he thought his proposal for additional funding would improve public safety.
“It was real clear these were the areas that needed the focus,” Walker said of where he was directing more money. “I just felt that was an area that often gets overlooked.”
The funding request will be a part of Walker’s budget that he will introduce to the Republican-controlled Legislature on Feb. 20. The Legislature will consider Walker’s proposal for months and likely vote on it sometime in June. His proposal would:
— Expand statewide community-based care for adults and children with severe mental illness under the Comprehensive Community Services program.
— Establish a state government Office of Children’s Mental Health that will assist other agencies in developing and delivering services.
— Expand statewide the Coordinated Services Team program, which helps children with behavioral mental health issues and their families when the children are in two or more systems of care.
— Increase funding for peer-run respite centers that deal with emergency services for those in crisis or have difficulty coping with their mental illness.
— Increase funding for in-home counseling services.
— Add two units at the Mendota Mental Health Institute to meet the growing demand for inpatient evaluation and treatment services.
Democratic legislative leaders did not immediately return messages seeking comment.