La Crosse County Juvenile Detention Facility Sees Spike In Attempted Suicides

13 Attempted Suicides At Facility In 2017 — About Twice As Many As 2016


The La Crosse County Juvenile Detention Facility has seen a significant increase in suicide attempts this year.

In the first four months of 2017, there were 13 attempted suicides at the La Crosse County Juvenile Detention Facility. That’s almost twice as many attempted suicides than in 2016.

“As we’ve started seeing these attempts creep up starting really last October, we have had a continuous response and meetings,” said Mandy Bisek, manager of La Crosse County’s Justice Support Services.

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Bisek said it’s difficult to determine why there’s an increase in attempted suicides. But she said more youth are coming into the program with a traumatic background or existing mental illnesses.

“Those things come together and come to a head, and when kids are in a place like detention, sometimes having to deal with some of those things comes out in responses such as these and lots of other ways,” Bisek said.

The facility has also seen an increase in their average daily population, going from five juveniles in 2011 to 12 in 2017. County board member Monica Kruse attributed some of that increase to the facility accepting juveniles from outside La Crosse County.

“We have seen a substantial increase in the number of kids who stay in our CORE facility, and we’ve not increases our staff in about three years,” said Kruse, who also chairs the county’s Health and Human Services Board.

CORE stands for Community Option for Re-Engagement, a court-ordered program that places children in facilities such as the one in La Crosse. Some juveniles at the La Crosse facility are part of CORE.

Jim Moeser, a policy analyst for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the number of juveniles in local detention facilities across the state has been relatively stable. But as counties improve their local programs, Moeser said it’s becoming more common to discover the impact of previous trauma or mental illnesses.

“Being more attuned to it, more aware of the impact of trauma, with better assessments that are going on, for kids who are confined for longer periods of time, it’s showing up more,” Moeser said.

The La Crosse program has requested funding for five more staff members, and renovations to cell doors and beds to prevent future suicide attempts.

We’ll be looking at what kind of changes we could potentially make not only to make the facility safer, which is first and foremost our highest priority, but also really making sure that if we’re having kids potentially stay with us longer, that it’s a more home-like environment for them,” Bisek said.

The county board will consider the request for more staff at their next meeting Thursday.