Congresswoman Gwen Moore joins others in signing a bar used in the construction of the new mental health facility. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and Gov. Tony Evers attended a ceremony in Milwaukee on Monday to announce plans to construct a new mental health facility in the city. The facility, slated to open in early 2022, will be located in a neighborhood where it will serve local residents.
It’s a strategy Rep. Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee) called “bringing it to the people.” The new mental health emergency center is a joint venture between Milwaukee County, Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin, and Froedtert Health. Admitting both voluntary and involuntary patients, the center will offer 24/7 crisis mental health assessments, stabilization, treatment and transitional care for adults and children. The facility will have six inpatient beds for adults in need of short term stays.
About one in five individuals experiences mental illness in her lifetime. According to a fact sheet distributed at the announcement event, 93% of psychiatric patients admitted to crisis center in Wauwatosa originate from the City of Milwaukee, with 70% of those patients living in close proximity to the center’s planned location. The new Mental Health Emergency Center will be located at 1525 N. 12th Street The Monday announcement also occurred on international Overdose Awareness Day.
During the Monday event, Congresswoman Gwen Moore joked briefly about what she thought when she heard the center’s address. “There is no such place as 1525 N. 12th Street,” she said to laughter from the audience, having grown up nearby and knowing nothing yet existed there. Moore highlighted, “the importance of this initiative with regard to our thrust for police reform.”
She recalled the 2014 case of 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton, who was killed in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park after an officer was called because Hamilton was sleeping on a park bench. Hamilton had struggled with mental illness. “This is the very kind of intervention that we are looking for when we think about reimagining the police,” said Moore. “To have a place where trauma-informed care is provided locally.”
Crowley emphasized the center’s place in an overall strategy at achieving racial equity in the historically segregated city. “There are unacceptable health disparities, both in our city and in our state,” said Crowley. He noted these were issues, “even before the pandemic raised the level of trauma and mental illness that we’ve experienced. Our vision in Milwaukee currently is that, by achieving racial equity we can become the healthiest county in the state of Wisconsin. And we’re making significant investments in that vision. And through this project, this takes us another step in the right direction to improve mental health services and improve the quality of life for Milwaukee County residents.”
The center’s construction is receiving funding from a variety of sources, with big help from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Construction and start-up costs for the new center are projected at $18 million, with the county covering half of the costs and partnered health care systems providing the other half. Once the center is open, it’s expected to deliver care with an operating loss of $12 million annually. The Department of Health Services will also provide $5.7 million in funding for the new center in Milwaukee. About $4.5 million of that funding comes from Wisconsin’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, which were allocated under the ARPA funds.
We are committed to ensuring that Wisconsin workers, families and communities are not only bouncing back from this pandemic financially, but that we are addressing the increased need for mental and behavioral health care and building healthy communities well into the future,” said Evers. “This facility will play a critical role in strengthening our mental health care infrastructure by expanding access to treatment and providing a wide range of options for people experiencing mental health crises to get the care they need.”
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