Good News and Worrisome News on Wisconsin’s Health Care Financing

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 5:12 PM by

Walker Announces $29 Million Investment in Mental Health Care, but Voices Reservations about ACA Medicaid Opportunity

Governor Walker announced Wednesday that his budget bill will make a $28.9 million investment in mental health care during the next two fiscal years.  That’s very welcome news.   The worrisome news is that the Governor said on his Facebook page late Tuesday that he has reservations about using the opportunity provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to close the gap in BadgerCare, because he believes “long-term funding is highly uncertain.”  (See the response to that point by David Riemer of Community Advocates.)  

As a side note, Michigan’s Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, doesn’t share Walker’s reservations.  An article in the Detroit Free Press reported that at a press conference today Snyder expressed his “unconditional support for an expansion of Medicaid to include about 450,000 more uninsured, low income Michiganders into the program.”

Returning our attention to Wisconsin, Walker said in an address to the WI Counties Association today that his initiative isn’t just a reaction to recent tragedies.  Paraphrasing the Governor’s remarks, the WisPolitics Budget Blog wrote that the Governor said that the initiative is “also intended to help expand service and break the stigma for those who seek mental health services.”   

His plan will make the following investments in mental health care in the 2013-15 budget:

  • $10.2 million for Comprehensive Community Services (CCS)
  • $3.7 million for Coordinated Service Teams
  • $1.3 million for Peer Run Respite Centers
  • Creating an Office of Children’s Mental Health and providing $535,000 for children’s mental health services
  • $524,000 in In-home counseling for children
  • $12.5 million to open two additional inpatient Forensic Treatment units at Mendota Mental Health.

Press statements today by Disability Rights Wisconsin and Mental Health America applauded the increased commitment to mental health care.    Rep. Sandy Pasch (D – Shorewood) expressed similar sentiments, but her press release adds: “…if Walker is serious about addressing the critical mental health issues facing our state, he would take our call to utilize available federal funding under the Affordable Care Act to strengthen health coverage throughout our communities – including individuals living with treatable mental health conditions.”  

In related news today, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced the formation of a Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health, which will be chaired by Rep. Erik Severson (R-Osceola), an emergency room physician, to serve as chair, and Rep. Pasch will be the vice-chair. 

Jon Peacock

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