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The Mental Health Board of Milwaukee County, a group charged to close down the County Mental Health Complex finally had a public hearing on persons ill in Milwaukee County with a brain or mental illness. People were allow three minutes to testify. After some of the people would testified the board would ask for copies of their statement. They did not do that for my statements but I decided to send it to them anywhere. Here is a slighted edited version of my testimony.
On a cold winter night in the winter of 1998 I was awaken by a phone call from a friend of my son. My son had stopped taking his medication and in a mental health crisis was banging down the door of his friend. The friend had called the police to take my son to the mental health complex where he had been before. The police came and told this person they could only arrest my son for disorderly conduct. She called me to talk with the police officer about my son’s history of illness. I did but he repeated to me that he needed to arrest my son and put him in the county jail. I did not realize at the time that meant solidarity confinement in a padded cell with nothing to do except get sicker. When I bailed my son out he was angry and swore he would never go back to jail. He did not.
My son committed suicide in 2010 with his greatest fear still being sent to jail.
During the years of 1995 – 2010 I saw the mental health complex deteriorating thanks to cuts by County Executives Ament and Walker, decertification of complex, loss of Froedtert Medical College unit and more. In fact, in one of my son’s commitments to the Mental Health Complex he was in the Froedtert Medical College unit. The doctor there really treated my son and us with respect. In our visit when he was existing, the Doctor said that if he was ever brought there again she was going to try some new medicine that she thought would work. He was sent back there but she and the Froedtert unit was gone and, as usual, there was no record of his past treatments.
Now in 2016 I am researching the mental health system for persons ill with mental health illness and find in part the following: Police are being trained in Crisis Intervention training how to better deal with persons in a mental health crisis and there is a special unit of County Jail and House Correction for a limited number of persons suffering a serious mental health crisis.
However, police are limited where they can take a person in mental health crisis and the jail is not a treatment center. If they are voluntary and have not broken a law they can be taken by police to any hospital that has a psychiatric unit. But the large hospitals in Milwaukee serving Milwaukee Aurora Mt. Sanai, St. Luke’s, St. Joseph’s, and Froedtert in Wauwatosa do not have psychiatric units and thus the ER will not serve them.
If they are suffering a crisis and involuntary they must be taken to Mental Health Complex which has been reduced over the years to 48 beds at present. If an ill person is judged not to meet the strict definition of Chapter 51 of “being a danger to self and others” they are released to the street or if they have a ‘police hold’ sent to County Jail. If a danger to self or others they can be committed to complex or sent to other contracted facilities, like Rogers in Brown Deer or Aurora Psychiatric in Wauwatosa, depending on insurance and agreement, to wait a court hearing.
As distress, poverty. Segregation, unemployment, violence, homicides and incarceration, all triggers for persons genetically predisposed to mental health illnesses, increase in Milwaukee the number of beds for psychiatric treatment have decreased and more are being jailed.
Now the County Executive is talking about privatizing crisis mental health services and using newspaper articles about the County’s failure to maintain a proper level of treatment to justify it. A person in an emergency crisis like a heart attack, car accident, stroke or even being shot while committing a crime, can be taken, voluntarily or not, to any ER, will be treated and remain in hospital or treatment center for recovery. Persons with a mental health illnesses are not welcome at most hospital. Most likely they will eventually end up in the County Jail, House of Corrections or State prisons. They are not health treatment facilities but house over 35% of persons with serious mental health illnesses. Stop jailing our ill in Milwaukee!
“I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me. “ (Matthew 25:40)
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