I would remind previous, and inform new readers to this blog that I have been loosely covering recently (as this blog is NOT very aged…) the very long sad of the saga of the Milwaukee County’s combined mental health services. These actually started being chronicled in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2000. There is a comprehensive website at that paper’s website that contains the easily listed and read articles since those began in earnest in about 2006 when things really started falling apart there. I am primarily interested in the long term struggle to modernize, and fashion a new sensible integrated system of mental health care delivery in my home state of North Carolina where I have practiced since my training at Duke in 1974 with the exception of 9 years spent in two other states for family reasons.
I have recently been writing here on Milwaukee’s problems because 1) they have been so very well documented clearly for any reader by the staff of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, so ably in recent years by Ms. Meg Kissinger (who has already the national George Polk Award, and frankly deserves more national recognition for her long coverage); 2) the long standing crisis there that is so typical of what is going all over the country, and 3) shows the varying efforts and successes of the government officials both local and state to dig themselves and their patients out of a deep, long standing hole of declining services with many tragedies, also documented sadly. The reporting series at the Journal Sentinel is called “Chronic Crisis: A System That Doesn’t Heal,” and that name clearly has had a double meaning unfortunately. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s series, Chronic Crisis: A System That Doesn’t Heal, is recommended so familiarize yourself if you wish, with the history of the issues, as the late Paul Harvey would say, and know “The Rest of The Story.”
This past week on June 22, Ms. Kissinger and staff penned their latest article that I think is the most valuable of all as it delineates as good an analysis and set of true, sound and achievable recommendations that I have seen in print, in my now 15 years of following, documenting and gathering materials on the collapse of public mental health services in this country. It is entitled, “How can Milwaukee County’s broken mental health system be fixed?” I cannot recommend strongly enough that the interested, concerned reader, whether consumer/client, mental health care provider, or policy planner, read this article.
It offers, details and explains 9 fundamentally important points of revolutionary change that only if they were implemented, would begin an thorough and sensible patient and care focused reform of their system that in my opinion would be far more effective than most of the hit and miss, hurry up and mess up, declare Great Five Year Plans of mental health reform plans seen in states, undoing by paralyzed state political bodies responsible for these services, still woeful provision for community based services of all intensities from outpatient counselling or medication psychiatric effective treatment to housing and true rehabilitation. I will give two “spoilers” in today’s movie parlance revealing the essentials of two of the principles: 1. Stop the (over) reliance on emergency (room) care; and 2. Get the politicians out of the entire system of public mental health care. Please read this article and ponder with resolve.