Wisconsin Public Radio

City Will Conduct Mental Health Survey

Seeking information about impact of pandemic on residents.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Mar 8th, 2021 10:33 am
Vehicles drive past the Behavioral Health Division Psychiatric Crisis Services facility Friday, March 5, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Vehicles drive past the Behavioral Health Division Psychiatric Crisis Services facility Friday, March 5, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Milwaukee city leaders want to find out how the pandemic is affecting residents’ mental health. They expect a new survey will find the isolation and economic challenges over the last year to have taken a significant toll.

Over the next few weeks, Alder Chantia Lewis and Milwaukee’s Board of Health will work with Middleton-based research firm Polco to develop a city-wide mental health needs assessment.

“We want as many folks in the city as possible, so it’s not relegated to zip code or race. I want a full sampling,” Lewis said.

Lewis is hoping to have the survey completed by the end of May.

Nick Mastronardi, chief executive officer of Polco, said since the pandemic, his firm has received a lot of requests from communities for mental health surveys.

“We’ve been doing work like this for five to 10 years, but since the pandemic, there has been a lot on suicide prevention and public health,” Mastronardi said. “There is a lot going on in the country right now, not just the pandemic, but Black Lives Matter. We view it as an honor to try to help communities come together.”

Once the results are in, Mastronardi said community comparisons will be done to show how Milwaukee compares to other cities. Recommendations will be made for follow-up plans.

If the city decides it wants to move forward with providing any type of mental health services following the results, it will have to work with Milwaukee County, which provides outpatient care through its Behavioral Health Division.

In 2015, the Wisconsin Policy Forum worked on a series of reports related to an ongoing initiative by the public and private sector to redesign the mental health care delivery system in Milwaukee County.

The reports found several challenges, including provider shortages and limited resources.

“If there is a real need for individuals to receive an initial evaluation and potentially be connected with an outpatient service provider, we clearly found (in 2015) that there was certainly not a lot of capacity,” said Wisconsin Policy Forum President Rob Henken. “There is potential there. The city should be interested in getting a handle on this question, but how much wherewithal the city would have to actually have to put the services in place is certainly in question.”

Henken said one thing that could address the mental health care provider shortage is telemedicine.

The federal government removed Medicare restrictions and temporarily relaxed HIPPA obligations during the pandemic, giving psychiatrists an opportunity to treat home-bound patients.

Lewis said she would love to see a county-wide survey and has started conversations to do this.

“The goal is to walk in tandem with this, and then once we collect the data and see what the gaps are and the needs, then coupling support and resources through the county, because they have the ability to leverage a lot more than we do in the city,” Lewis said.

Lewis knows there is a lot to be done, but she wants the community to know there is hope.

“We are in this time of ambiguity; people are anxious about what tomorrow looks like,” she said. “We can foster a hope knowing that even though you may be lacking in some areas, or you need resources, they are available, and we will be getting those resources out to the community as fast as possible.”

Listen to WPR report here.

City Of Milwaukee To Survey Residents About Pandemic Mental Health was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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