Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Mental Health Complex Is Closing

Final day is Sept. 8, as county changes to decentralized network of mental health clinics and hospitals.

By - Aug 15th, 2022 05:24 pm
Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County.

Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County.

The Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex on Watertown Plank Road in Wauwatosa will officially close its doors on Sept. 9, completing the transition of the county’s behavioral health services from a centralized operation to one with various agencies and locations.

After flaws in the county’s mental health system came to light more than a decade ago there has been an ongoing effort to reform it.

A major piece of this long-running attempt to reform the system has involved building a constellation of clinics and care centers, often referred to as a “community-based” model to replace the mental health complex. When the doors close for the last time on that facility in September, the services provided there will have shifted to the new, privately-run Granite Hills Hospital in West Allis and the new Mental Health Emergency Center being developed at 1525 N. 12th St.

Granite Hills is a 120-bed facility that opened in 2021 and provides in-patient behavioral health care. It’s operated by United Hospital Services, Inc. The $33 million facility is intended to replace the services that were offered at the county’s complex in Wauwatosa.

The new Mental Health Emergency Center will treat patients experiencing a mental health crisis and is a partnership between the county and four health care systems, Ascension Wisconsin, Advocate Aurora Health, Froedtert Health and Children’s Wisconsin. The $12 million, 12,000-square-foot facility would be built on county-owned land at the intersection of N. 12th St. and N. 12th Ln. just south of W. Fond du Lac Ave.

When the location for the new emergency center was announced, DHHS officials noted that a significant majority of county residents who use emergency psychiatric care services provided by the county live within the 10 ZIP codes adjacent to the new facility.

Along with these two facilities, DHHS is partnering with and developing smaller community clinics to provide outpatient, and non-crisis mental healthcare services. Though, under the DHHS “No Wrong Door” policy, patients can walk in anywhere in the system and be connected with the services they need.

Shakita LaGrant-McClain, Director of DHHS, has explained the policy in the past like this: “They may come for mental health needs that they may have, but how do we get them connected to transportation, or caregiver support, or housing or case management services?”

“The system redesign is part of our commitment to ensuring there is ‘No Wrong Door’ for Milwaukee County residents who want to access behavioral health services,” said LaGrant-McClain in a statement Monday.

The Mental Health Complex was built in 1978. Today, the county considers this facility out of date and an impediment to updating mental health care and services.

“We are on the cutting-edge of providing easily accessible, culturally-competent behavioral health services, which move away from inpatient and institutional care to a system based on national best practices that meet people where they are,” said Mike Lappen, Administrator of Behavioral Health Services, a division of DHHS. “This includes streamlined services, better access and emphasis on proven practices like holistic and trauma-informed care, stigma reduction and racial equity.”

County Executive David Crowley called the closure of the mental health complex “the next milestone” for the county as it transitions to the new system of mental health care.

“The redesign focused on improving access to behavioral health services and quality care in our most underserved and vulnerable communities,” he said. “This is a major development in demonstrating our commitment to achieving racial and health equity and becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”

Categories: Health, MKE County, Weekly

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