Here is an article about unfortunate events at a mental health complex in Milwaukee. I say “unfortunate” in that this is a totally preventable event. However, for those involved, this event is life shattering and traumatizing.
Mental health patients and staff should, at all times, know that they are safe from exploitation and safe from physical assault. Without safety, how do you ever expect to deliver any treatment?
We often read about violence and sexual abuse that occurs in mental health situations. It is unforgiveable to have a staff member taking advantage of a patient; just as it is unacceptable for a staff member to be attacked by a patient.
The article below is interesting in that it is written by the director of NAMI Greater Milwaukee. Please read this article and let me know what you think.
When asked, regarding the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, “what has to happen now?” and “who is accountable?” the answers are far from simple.
As the director of NAMI Greater Milwaukee, which is the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and as a Milwaukee County resident, my answers to these two questions are as follows: What has to happen now, first and foremost, is that all individuals seeking and receiving treatment at the Mental Health Complex need to be safe and need to be receiving therapeutic and recovery-focused treatment.
All employees need to be assured safety as well as receive ongoing comprehensive training regarding hospital regulations, procedures and recovery models of care. Individuals with a history of sexual assault need to be effectively monitored for the safety of patients, staff and also to ensure that therapeutic and recovery-focused care can be provided to those patients with a history of sexual assault.
Milwaukee County employees with a history of sexual misconduct need to be removed from the system of care. The State of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services needs to increase its monitoring and oversight role, and the appropriate accreditation of the facility needs to be expedited, which will require technical assistance to implement safety and recovery-focused systems of care.
The county executive and County Board along with the State of Wisconsin needs to appropriately fund a system of mental health care that is long overdue for increases in funding, rather than decreases and mere maintenance of funding for both inpatient and community mental health services.
Last but certainly not least, area private hospitals need to greatly increase their role in providing mental health treatment by both increasing inpatient mental health beds and by increasing their funding for proactive recovery-focused community mental health services.
As a community, we need to start looking at whether having a large mental health complex is the best approach for providing mental health treatment for Milwaukee County residents.
We need to consider establishing community mental health treatment centers in several locations of our county that can provide culturally appropriate mental health services. These facilities should have the capacity to treat individuals in need of acute mental health treatment as well as individuals needing a mental health assessment and the capacity to connect or reconnect individuals to mental health services in a welcoming, safe and recovery focused environment.
The lack of insurance that covers mental health treatment is another primary reason that leads to underfunded and unsafe mental health services. Far too often, people end up in the Mental Health Complex because they do not have insurance or the type of insurance accepted by private hospitals.
The stigma associated with mental illness is the No. 1 reason that people in need of mental health services do not seek treatment. The general population needs to know that people with a mental health diagnosis are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators and that violence by individuals with mental illnesses is no greater than those without a mental illness.
Mental illnesses are medical conditions that affect our brain functioning and thought processes. Mental illnesses are not a flaw in an individual’s character, and they are not the fault of the individual who has the illness. With access to appropriate mental health education and treatment, people can live a life of recovery by managing their illness just as a people with diabetes are able to manage their illness.
It is hopeful that there are many initiatives and partnerships currently working to ensure that the quality of our mental health and substance abuse systems of care are increased, including the recent County Board appointment of a Community Advisory Council to ensure a broad range of expertise and voices are included to assist with the issues of safety and treatment at the Mental Health Complex.
To answer the question “who is accountable?” as cliché as it may be, we all need to be held accountable. From the county executive and the staff at the Mental Health Complex, the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, area private hospitals, mental health providers and mental health advocates, including each and every one of us residing in Milwaukee County.
One in every four individuals will experience a mental illness at least once in their lifetime. People with mental illness are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, children, veterans, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, lawyers, government officials and ourselves, and if we all don’t do a better job of making sure that our mental health services are funded adequately and provided appropriately, we will continue to have series of articles that we should all be ashamed of.
Peter Hoeffel is the executive director of NAMI Greater Milwaukee, which is the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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