Sunday, November 10, 2013

County must be careful on mental health care reform

There is a letter to the editor in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which was written by Boyd McCamish, the Executive Director of AFSCME District Council 48.  McCamish wrote the letter in an effort to clarify some misreporting by the paper (I know, shocker, right?):
I read with interest the Nov. 3 article on Milwaukee County's mental health system ("Looking for a better way"). The article clearly illustrates that the question of how to move forward is still very much a matter of debate.

Let me assure you that, contrary to the article's tone, AFSCME is not opposed to community-based mental health services. I was deeply disappointed that the article included a secondhand account of a conversation I had with County Executive Chris Abele that mischaracterizes our concerns.

AFSCME believes that citizens who need mental health services should receive these services in the least restrictive environment that can ensure high-quality, competent and safe care. We worry that Abele is pushing forward with a plan that does not meet what should be a pre-condition: the need for a strong system of accountability that protects patient and community safety.

This is why we support a budget amendment that puts patients first. It sets up a series of checks and balances. It also removes the arbitrary and unrealistic time frame the administration sets for pushing patients into the community. This amendment won approval from a key County Board committee on Nov. 5.

The county system has serious problems, but the system's support staff who we represent spend countless hours caring for people who desperately need help. These dedicated caregivers are doing the best they can in a difficult and troubling situation. They deserve our respect, not to be cast as villains.

AFSCME believes we need to change the delivery of service and create positive outcomes for all parties. AFSCME also believes that this change must be transitioned in so as not to endanger the very people we are trying to help.

Boyd McCamish
Executive director
AFSCME Council 48
Of course Abele can't pay for the services for these people, our most vulnerable citizens, or their workers. He's gotta us that money to pay his illustrious staff who burn down courthouses and who needs desperately - until he fires them for no good reason.

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