Friday, December 19, 2014

Abele's Mental Health Board Boondoggle Worsens

As I have reported before, Milwaukee County Executive Chris "Boss" Abele is in a hurry to close up the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex so that he can sell the land to his wealthy friends.

When those pesky County Board Supervisors threatened to slow down the process of moving these vulnerable adults out by asking for common sense safety nets and precautions, Boss Abele did what he usually does when he doesn't get his way.  He threw a tantrum and ran to his friends, Scott Walker and the extremist Teapublicans in the state legislature, and had the mental health system removed from the county board's jurisdiction.

In place of the county board, Milwaukee's mental health system is overseen by Boss Abele's Mental Health Board.

From its conception, Abele's Mental Health Board has been a growing disaster.

First off, its formation was delayed while Walker and Abele selected their hand-picked political appointees to be on the board.

When the Board finally started to meet, their first job was to rubber stamp Boss Abele's budget for their system with no chance of analyzing it to see if it was sufficient.  However, more problems arose with the concern of whether their actions are even constitutional.  The Board has the authority to tax people but are not only not elected, they didn't even have public hearings on their budget.  In other words, it was taxation without representation.

This week, it was reported that Boss Abele's Mental Health Board still isn't ready for prime time:
Observers are raising questions about the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board and its plans for restructuring mental health care throughout the area. Formed in the spring, the board has yet to begin formal discussions on how it will lead the transformation to a decentralized health care system focused on community-based facilities.

According to board member Mary Neubauer, the board was initially faced with budget and organizational issues that required its attention and is now ready to make progress on its main mission. Chairperson Kimberly Walker said in an email that the board has discussed priorities that it will “flesh out” at its Dec.18 meeting.

“Once the board identifies priorities and goals, we will work in collaboration with the administration to see that strategic plans are developed and implemented,” Walker wrote.
In other words, they still don't know what they are doing. They don't even know what they want to be doing.

Yet, while the Board is trying to find itself, Boss Abele is still pushing vulnerable citizens out of the complex, with or without proper support systems that will be able to meet their needs and keep them safe.

But, wait! With all things Abele, there is more.

Not only does Abele's Mental Health Board without direction, they are also lacking even the most basic support:
The 13-member board operates without a dedicated staff, raising uncertainty about how it will carry out its responsibilities. “Board members have a hunger for data and information but that raises questions about how the board will function without anyone on staff to gather the information,” said Rob Henken, director of the Public Policy Forum in Milwaukee.

Questions also remain about how the board will manage the makeover of the mental health care system. “No one knows yet what level of oversight the board will choose for itself,” Henken said. “Will it be like a traditional board of directors that sets an agenda, or will it be more administrative and focus on day-to-day details?”

Neubauer said that some level of support staff is “most definitely needed” to gather data and provide analysis for the board to make decisions. Once armed with the information it needs, she believes, the board can lead the mental health care transformation.


Added Barbara Beckert, Milwaukee director of Disability Rights Wisconsin, “One of the concerns we had from the beginning was who will be supporting the board,” she said. “It is very important to have an independent staff that the board can direct in an analytical role. But to date that has not been available.”

The board has the ability to hire its own independent staff and assign responsibilities, according to Beckert. Until now, the county has proved some administrative support and information gathering.
Well, isn't that special?

Because the Mental Health Board is still lacking any independent reports or analyses, they are forced to rely on information spoon fed to them by Boss Abele, who's proven time and time again to be less than a reliable source of information.

By the time that the Mental Health Board will be ready to do their job, a lot of damage will already be done and most of these vulnerable adults - as well as the taxpayers - will have been thrown to the corporate vultures.

But it is not all bad news.

In their meeting on Thursday, the Mental Health Board, at the persistence of AFSCME, was able to gain a guarantee that Abele would not continue to try to treat the county workers at the mental health complex differently than other county workers.  This will mean sparing those workers thousands of dollars in unnecessary pay cuts.

The Mental Health Board has also taken action, again due to the persistence of the unions, to start to address the serious safety issues that are present at the mental health complex caused by Boss Abele's incompetent handling of the system.

That's more than Abele has done in the four years he's been running the place.

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