Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Mental Health Emergency Center Unveiled

New center on N. 12th St., opening in September, part of redesigned mental health services in Milwaukee County.

By - Aug 17th, 2022 03:43 pm

Mental Health Emergency Center, 1525 N. 12th St. Photo by Graham Kilmer

Milwaukee County officials held an open house at the new Mental Health Emergency Center Tuesday to tout the new facility which they say is a “historic” achievement for mental health care in the area.

The Mental Health Emergency Center, is a new 12,000-square-foot facility built on county-owned land at the intersection of N. 12th St. and N. 12th Ln. just south of W. Fond du Lac Ave. The $12 million facility was developed in a 50/50 partnership between the county and four health care systems: Ascension Wisconsin, Advocate Aurora Health, Froedtert Health and Children’s Wisconsin.

The new center is part of Milwaukee County’s shift from a centralized, institutional mental health system to a “community based” model of care, made up of a network of community clinics, the new Granite Hills in-patient hospital in West Allis and now the new emergency center. It will open for walk-in patients on Sept. 6 and involuntary commitments on Sept. 9.

“It’s really the last step to get us out of the hospital business and really allows us to focus on more preventive and upstream services,” said Mike Lappen, administrator of Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Services.

Lappen and others noted the significance of the collaboration between the county and the private health systems. All the institutions worked together to create a “center of excellence” focused solely on psychiatric crisis.

Kevin Kluesner, administrator of the new Mental Health Emergency Center, said that when areas don’t have a center like this patients are often walking into their local hospital emergency department, which typically doesn’t have psychiatrists on staff. The new emergency center will have two psychiatrists on staff 24 hours a day.

The new facility was designed, in part, based on feedback from the community. It is very open and filled with natural light, which is a marked change from the old mental health complex on Watertown Plank Rd., Lappen noted. “Almost the entire facility is line of sight,” he said. “So that helps with safety.”

Lappen said that some aspects may seem institutional, or cold. “But really, what you’re trying to do is reduce opportunities for people to engage in self harm; many people who come here will be suicidal.”

One small detail is all the door handles, which lack an opening or corner to wrap your hand around, because they are specially designed to prevent a patient from attaching a ligature to them.

The emergency center includes a general area where most patients will receive treatment, a children’s area and an inpatient wing with six beds.

County Executive David Crowley echoed Lappen and Kluesner and talked up the historic nature of partnership with the health systems and the redesign of the county’s mental health services.

Importantly, two thirds of Milwaukee county residents that access emergency psychiatric care services provided by the county live within the 10 ZIP codes adjacent to the new facility. “You no longer have to take a half hour 45 minute bus ride, in order to get services voluntarily at the Wauwatosa location,” he said.

Crowley noted that a key piece to achieving racial equity is health equity, and specifically, mental health. “And so we know that there aren’t too many services in the community, and we need to do everything that we can to build up the capacity of those provider networks,” he said.

Lappen said the new emergency center will support the county’s community-based mental health interventions, explaining that before a patient is discharged, “We can refer someone to a service as close to their house as possible, which reduces barriers to following up with that important care.”

Photo Gallery

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Categories: MKE County, Real Estate

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us