Access to mental health services across the state would be greatly expanded, under several bills approved by the state Assembly Tuesday.
Lawmakers approved 13 bills, which Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) described as the most comprehensive package of reforms to mental health services in a generation. Vos says the bills “address a wide range of concerns dealing with mental health, from access to care to coordination of emergency detention.”
The package includes legislation that would make it easier for mental health patients to seek in-home treatment, establishes a consultation line for doctors to seek advice on treatment options, and creating a grant program that will help train law enforcement on how to respond to crisis situations involving mental illness. Others provide incentives for doctors to practice medicine in rural areas of the state and additional funding for peer-run respite centers.
The bills are the result of work done by a special legislative task force established by the speaker earlier this year. State Representative Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood), who co-chaired the panel, says they are an important first step to addressing some of the shortfalls in the state’s mental health system. However, she says there are still issues that need to be addressed, such as the high rate of incarceration for many young people with mental illnesses.
All of the bills passed the Assembly with strong bipartisan support. They now head to the state Senate, which could take them up early next year.