Legislators scrap overhaul of detention policy for mentally illA legislative task force has quashed an effort to change a state law that currently requires law enforcement to take the lead in handling emergency detentions of people suffering from a mental illness.
By: Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A legislative task force has quashed an effort to change a state law that currently requires law enforcement to take the lead in handling emergency detentions of people suffering from a mental illness.
Members of the task force voted against a recommendation to scrap and rewrite the state's involuntary detention law known as Chapter 51.
Shorewood Rep. Sandy Pasch (D) had proposed scrapping the law and rewriting it. Pasch says the current law, passed in the 1970s, is out of step with advances other states have made in detaining the mentally ill in emergency situations without depending solely on police. “Police are the ones who are called. They can't get the person hospitalized, so they go to jail or prison,” she said. “We have many, many individuals with mental illness who are incarcerated. For the men's prison, about 30 percent of the inmates have a mental illness.”
Instead of rewriting the law, the task force is recommending a pilot project in Milwaukee to create mobile mental health teams who can assess the mentally ill when they're detained and try to find treatment options instead of jail.
Pasch says the task force is also recommending expanding a program that helps mentally ill inmates after they're released from prison. She says too often inmates leave prison without access to the medications and treatment they were receiving in prison. “If we really want to assist people who have been incarcerated [and] who are dealing with a mental illness, and we want to prevent their re-incarceration and also help them as be as productive a part of society as they can possibly be, we need to make sure they have access to ongoing treatment.”
Both of these proposals will cost money. It will be up to the legislature to approve that funding once bills to launch the programs are introduced.