Thursday, July 1, 2010

The State Imitates Milwaukee County

It's almost like Scott Walker was already governor:

Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison surrendered its federal certification for one of its units in June after inspectors cited the state hospital for failure to provide therapy to patients and for stripping a female patient and placing her naked in a seclusion room, federal officials said.

The woman had refused to be searched for contraband, according to federal inspectors. State officials said the woman had a history of hiding paper clips in her clothing and later swallowing them.


The use of seclusion and keeping the patient unclothed was a violation of federal care standards on privacy and dignity, said Elizabeth Surgener, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. State and federal officials differed on whether the woman was left naked.

John Easterday, director of the state Division of Mental Health, said Thursday the woman was given a hospital gown while she was in seclusion and was not left naked.

Taking care of mentally ill and developmentally disabled people isn't easy, nor is it always inexpensive. But that is not excuse for cutting corners, as we learned all too well by watching Walker's mishandling of the mental health complex here in Milwaukee County.

We need someone in the governor's chair that is willing to do the right thing, and not just worry about appeasing some special interest groups by cutting corners to give the illusion of saving taxes.

Now not only is the state losing out on a revenue source, it has opened itself up to lawsuits. Furthermore, any county that has people sent there will be paying through the nose for the care, which is usually on a long term basis. That could put a real hurt on many counties' budgets.

But even more important is the fact that despite their challenges, these are still people, and not only should, but must be treated with respect and dignity.

That is something that the leadership in the state and Milwaukee County has failed in doing.


  1. Capper, your compassion for the treatment of the mentally ill is admirable. Your attempt to spin this politically fails miserably.

    In a simple parallel, if Republican Scott Walker is responsible for the poor situation in Milwaukee County as you assert, why isn't Democrat Jim Doyle culpable for that same situation at the state level?

    Your words show that your heart knows both situations are wrong. Be honest with your readers and yourself: who's to blame?

  2. I have proven that the decision to cut staff, cut the beds and most significantly, the refusal of creating the secure wards were decisions that were made in the executive's office by Walker himself.

    To be honest, I cannot say the same for Doyle and Mendota. Judging from the article, it seems more likely that it is more an issue of battling bureaucracies enriched by inept staff. But that does not rule out that Doyle did something stupid, like he did with the whole transit issue.