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HomeBreaking NewsWisconsin Assembly Turns Focus to Mental Health

Wisconsin Assembly Turns Focus to Mental Health

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Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to send a laundry list of mental health proposals to Gov. Tony Evers.

The Wisconsin Assembly on Tuesday queued up plans that would do everything from allow out-of-state mental health providers to work in Wisconsin, to set up a pilot program for first responders’ mental health needs, to expand mental health training for police officers, who Rep. Bob Donovan, R-Greenfield, said have become de-facto mental health professionals.

“Typically, a call goes into the police when an individual is acting up in a community. The police respond and they try to diffuse the situation, depending on how violent the individual is. Often times these situations escalate, and the individual is arrested, put in the back of a squad, and taken-off either to jail or a mental health facility,” Donovan said.

His plan would create a pilot program in both rural Wisconsin and the state’s larger cities that would pay, train, and equip police officers to better handle mental health calls.

“[We will] also provide them with iPads so that they will have access to mental health professionals, 24/7, right on the spot when they arrive on the scene,” Donovan added.

Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, has a plan that would help police officers, firefighters, and other first responders for their mental health needs.

“The average citizen encounters like one or two traumatic incidents in their lifetime, whereas these emergency personnel experience hundreds of them over the course of their careers,” Kitchens said. “They show up at these events where everyone else is falling apart and they’re expected to be stoic and in control.”

Kitchens says he wants to help break the mindset that first responders are weak or less than by seeking mental health help.

“There’s a pervasive culture often in these agencies where it’s looked on as a weakness if they express their feelings,” Kitchens said. “Sort of that John Wayne syndrome.”

Kitchens’ plan would set standards for mental health treatment policies at police and fire departments across the state.

Rep. Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, has a plan to open up telemedicine in Wisconsin.

“This is a big deal, especially for those of us that live near bordering states or metropolitan areas. like I live near Minneapolis-St. Paul,” Moses said. “it’s a big deal for my constituents and it ensures that you can get Mental Health Care regardless of what corner of Wisconsin you do live in.”

Ben Yount - The Center Square
The Center Square contributor
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