Governor's Budget Includes Mental Health Initiatives for Childre - WBAY

Governor's Budget Includes Mental Health Initiatives for Children, Families

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Next week, Governor Scott Walker formally releases his budget proposal, including nearly $30 million in mental health initiatives.

These ideas came from experts statewide, including Northeast Wisconsin, who say there is a definite need.

"Pretty much everybody's aware of someone in their family that has some kind of a mental health issue, so it's not that far away from any of us," Tom Martin says.

As president and CEO of Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, Martin sees on a daily basis a growing demand for mental health services.

"There's a lot of need out there right now," he says. "Kind of pent-up demand."

Martin and other experts voiced concerns and offered ideas to the governor during listening sessions a few weeks ago.

Some of their ideas are now in the budget proposal, including $524,000 for in-home counseling for children -- a service Martin says was nearly eliminated by lack of funding.

"Most of the time we have to work on the whole family and all the issues as opposed to just the issues with the child, so this is a very good message."

Other proposals include:

  • Creating an Office of Children's Mental Health ($535,000)
  • Creating peer-run respite centers ($1.3 million)
  • Opening two more in-patient units at Madison's Mendota Mental Health Institute ($12.5 million)
  • Coordinated service teams to help both children and their families ($3.75 million)
  • Expanding comprehensive community services for people with severe mental illness ($10.2 million)

Captain Bill Galvin with the Green Bay Police Department said, "People would be surprised at how many calls we go to every day, every week that involve people with mental health issues."

Police are hoping this provides better communication among multiple agencies to help those people who right now are falling through the cracks.

"And there's not a lot we can do once we either suggest to them to get help," Galvin said. "We bring them to attention of Human Services and they try to reach out to them, but if they deny any help, there's not a lot you can do."

While this is only preliminary, both Martin and Galvin agree there is only room for improvement.

"I think mental health services has had a real stigma in the past, but it's improving because people are more aware of it than ever before," Martin said.

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