Walker to address funding for mental health - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Walker to address funding for mental health


LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants to review mental health services in the state.

His announcement comes in the wake of the president's gun control plan, laid out last week.

One focus for the governor, is determining how the state can improve care for those dealing with mental illness.

"We set up about 25 different mental health experts from around the state, to get at what is it that we can do, not only as a state but as a society," Walker said.

Walker says the panel will help determine the types of funding needed for mental health services in the next budget.

"Some of the things that we may address in the budget, in terms of funding targeting crisis intervention and other things that would help community by community."

Kelly Barton, vice president of clinical operations at Gundersen Lutheran Health Systems, says she hopes the state will increase funding for mental health programs.

"I would like to see us, as a state, recognize that good mental healthcare needs funding," Barton said. "If we take a look at the number of beds that were available in the 1970s, it was 13,000 beds. Today, its just around 2,000."

That panel of experts will include a psychologist from Gundersen Lutheran. Gundersen is set to open a new inpatient behavioral health building in February.

"If we can identify some areas there that we can boost services, if there are some shortages in areas, have better coordination between groups who work with people who are troubled," said Sen. Jennifer Shilling.

The administrative director of behavioral health at Gundersen, Anne Stekel, says one way to coordinate with the community is through schools.

"I think the earlier identification the better because often times there are many interventions that can help families and can help kids be more successful in school and be more successful in general," Stekel said.

Stekel also says it's crucial to change the stigma associated with mental illness and Gov. Walker agrees.

"If you have two friends, one goes to get help for a back problem, you're supportive and if the other friend goes to get help for anxiety, we step back from that person," Walker said.

And while the attention to mental health issues comes in the wake of the mass shooting in Connecticut, Stekel says it's important to know the overwhelming majority of those suffering from mental illness are not violent.

The panel will meet in Madison on Tuesday.

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