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Senate Approves Bill Creating New Board To Oversee Milwaukee Mental Health System

Bill Comes In Wake Of Six Patient Deaths In 2012, Hundreds Of State Citations Over Past Decade

By
Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, proposed the new board’s creation. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

The Wisconsin State Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that would take control over Milwaukee County’s troubled mental health system away from the county board, but Republicans delayed votes on several controversial items until later in the evening.

The Senate’s unanimous vote in favor of the mental health bill comes after six patients died in Milwaukee County’s mental health system in 2012 and after a decade that saw the state cite the county nearly 200 times for violations of patient safety.

The proposal from Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, would hand control over the system to a board that’s mostly appointed by the governor, and would be composed of medical professionals and family members.

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“This bill, through the creation of a Milwaukee County Mental Health Board – comprised of experts in mental health – will finally bring Milwaukee County in line with other counties and their approach to dealing with individuals with mental illness, and give relief to not only the patients but their families.”

The bill would also require a state audit of the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex.

Republican senators delayed debate on several other bills until later in the day, including one that would restrict polling hours for in-person, absentee voting to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson told Republicans that the bill would make it hard for some people to vote.

“It is cutting off people from voting – working class people who have jobs who work for a living and who may have trouble trying to get to the polls between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. to vote,” said Larson.

Also delayed until later on Tuesday evening are bills that would restrict asbestos lawsuits and allow for more lobbyist donations.

Only weeks remain in the legislative session before lawmakers hit the campaign trail for the rest of the year.

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