MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Governor Scott Walker signed seven bills Thursday aimed at improving mental health services in Wisconsin. The seven newly-signed laws address several needs, including the creation of a consultation hotline for children and teens, the creation of mobile crisis teams for serious mental illness cases.
Another of the new laws was authored by Senator Jerry Petrowski if Marathon. That one allows expansion of telemedicine so psychiatrists can serve more rural people. “They call it telepsychiatry, but its the ability for people to access this when they don’t have help locally.”
Petrowski says using more telemedicine for people that may have to travel long distances to get in person help just makes sense. “The military has been doing this for a long time with giving treatment, even to people that are in different countries, so this is just kind of an extension of that, and, young people these days are really good with technology, so it just gives that ability to utilize technology to get treatment.”
The Senator was also involved in another one of the new laws that helps people with mental illness find jobs. Petrowski says it has been shown that people suffering from mental illness often feel better about themselves when they are doing something they like that is useful and productive.
The bills signed by Governor Walker in Green Bay Thursday grew out of a special task force created by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
Here is a summary of the bills signed into law:
Assembly Bill 450 – provides grants for crisis intervention to train law enforcement and correctional officers to assist individuals who are in a mental crisis. The bill provides $250,000 to the Department of Health Services for the grants; counties and municipalities around the state will have the opportunity to apply. Representative Erik Severson (R-Osceola) and Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) authored the bill, which passed the Senate 32-0 and the Assembly 94-0; it is Act 126.
Assembly Bill 452 – directs the Department of Health Services (DHS) to administer a child psychiatric consultation program. Under this bill, primary care pediatricians will be given the proper tools to treat children with mental health needs. DHS will contract with an organization to provide consultation, referral support, second opinions on diagnoses and medication, among other services. Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) authored the bill, which passed the Senate 31-1 and the Assembly 94-0; it is Act 127.
Assembly Bill 454 – creates a primary care and psychiatry shortage grant program for physicians and psychiatrists that: graduated from a Wisconsin medical school; graduated from a Wisconsin graduate medical education training program that emphasized primary care medicine or psychiatry; already practice in an underserved region of the state; apply for the grant while participating in graduate medical training and before accepting employment as a primary care physician or psychiatrist; and do not appear on the child support lien docket, unless a payment agreement has been reached. A maximum of 12 physicians and 12 psychiatrists may receive a grant in a fiscal year. Representative Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca) and Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) authored the bill, which passed the Senate 31-1 and the Assembly 93-0, with two paired votes. The bill is Act 128.
Assembly Bill 455 – establishes grants to counties to contract for peer-run respite centers. Respite centers are a low cost alternative to inpatient care that offer a warm bed and peer counseling with the goal of diffusing crisis situations. Representative John Jagler (R-Watertown) and Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) authored the bill, which passed the Senate 32-0 and the Assembly 94-0; it is Act 129.
Assembly Bill 458 – increases access to mental health services for children in rural areas. The bill defines “telehealth” as the use of audio and video connections, over a secure internet connection, to create the same environment as conventional therapy. Using telehealth will allow providers to connect with children in need who would not otherwise have access to care. Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) and Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) authored the bill, which passed both the Senate and Assembly on a voice vote; it is Act 130.
Assembly Bill 459 – establishes an Individual Placement and Support (IPS) program in five regions in the state. The IPS program provides counseling, mentor programs, and vocational rehabilitation services. Assembly Bill 459 aligns with the Governor’s “Year of a Better Bottom Line” by assisting individuals with mental illness transition to the workplace, as a part of their recovery. Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) and Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) authored the bill, which passed the Senate 32-0 and the Assembly 94-0; it is Act 131.
Assembly Bill 460 – provides grants to counties to establish a mobile crisis program. The program will train mobile crisis teams to respond to individuals having a crisis episode. A mobile crisis team will provide greater access to people living in rural counties that do not already have access to this type of resource. Teams will help keep people stable and in the community. Representative Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) and Senator Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) authored the bill, which passed the Senate 32-0 and the Assembly 94-0; it is Act 132.