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Mental health gets funding in budget



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June 18, 2013 | 01:24 PM
Following the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a nation-wide call to action was issued to help those who suffer from various mental health issues.

This incident – along with several others in recent years – has given rise to a number of concerns regarding the mental state of these individuals and how future occurrences could hopefully be prevented.

Mental health is a complex issue, affecting both children and adults, and resources should be available to them in order to maintain the health and safety of our citizens and communities.

According to Wisconsin United for Mental Health, one in five Wisconsinites will be affected by a mental illness this year, and nearly two-thirds of those with a diagnosable mental disorder do not get the treatment and support they need.

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Early this year, the governor held a mental health listening session with mental health advocates, consumers, law enforcement and mental health providers, including school psychologists and psychiatrists, who gave recommendations for better addressing this issue in Wisconsin. Many of those recommendations have been included in the 2013-15 state budget bill, which may be acted on by the full legislature in the coming weeks.

One such budget provision expands the Comprehensive Community Services (CCS) program, which offers enhanced, individualized services including a mix of access to and maintenance of, psychiatric medication, counseling and supportive education, mental health psychotherapy and case management service. Most CCS services are provided in-home or in the community, as opposed to a clinician's office.

The program has resulted in reduced psychiatric hospitalizations, improved family and social relationships, access to meaningful employment and improved reports of overall life satisfaction.

The budget also creates the state Office of Children's Mental Health to better coordinate federal, state and local services to children with mental health needs.

Too often, children with mental health issues are caught in a complicated system of agencies and services, and in many cases, their mental health needs are not served.

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This new office will assure the coordination and integration of services across state agencies in order to ensure services are best meeting the needs of children throughout Wisconsin.

Another budget initiative expands the use of Coordinated Service Teams (CST) statewide.

These teams care for children with behavioral or complex health issues and target children and families involved in two or more systems of care, such as mental health, long term care, juvenile justice, child welfare, substance abuse, or special education. In 2011, more than 700 children were served by CST programs.

The budget also invests in the development of Peer Run Respite Centers, which are designed to improve quality of life and reduce emergency room visits. Services can include peer support, a 24/7 hotline, wellness activities, respite, and hospital diversion. The services are delivered by people who themselves have been successful in the recovery process.

The budget provides funding to broadly cover in-home counseling services under the Medicaid program.

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Expanding coverage will allow earlier interventions, particularly for children and families with less acute conditions, and will make it easier for families to access necessary services. In-home counseling services are used to address families where a child is at risk of placement outside the home, or where a child is returning from a placement to a family environment.

The final mental health provision in the budget provides funding and positions to increase the capacity of the state forensic treatment units to meet the growing demand for inpatient evaluation and treatment services at Mendota Mental Health Institute and Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

In total, more than $28 million has been dedicated in the state budget to help citizens lead healthier, more stable, and productive lives. The mental health budget provisions are significant strides toward addressing an on-going health issue in Wisconsin, worthy of our attention.

Senator Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025.

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