November 1, 2014

Lawmakers looking at mental health

A legislative task force will take a closer look at how Wisconsin is handling mental health issues.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) announced the creation of a panel of lawmakers Wednesday that will examine the programs and policies surrounding how the state deals with mental illness and the ways in which the public accesses care. Vos says the move comes with the recognition that “the current system for treating those with mental illness is simply not getting the job done.”

State Representative Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood), a mental health nurse, will serve as vice-chair of the task force. She says a key issue they will look at is how to address the stigma that’s often attached to a mental illness. Pasch says it’s the number one reason people do not seek treatment, and also impacts the willingness of providers to treat individuals.

While it may not be a problem the state can address directly through legislation, Pasch says opening a dialogue on mental illness could be helpful in removing the perceptions that often stop people from seeking help.

The panel will also examine ways to eliminate barriers to treatment and promote early intervention, along with how to better coordinate care between health care providers and local programs.

The task force is expected to offer recommendations by the end of May.

The announcement comes on the same day that Governor Walker announced he plans to include $30 million in his state budget to boost mental health services at the state and local levels.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:14)