A special task force is recommending a host of changes to Wisconsin's mental health laws that the state Assembly could consider before the year ends.
The special committee called together by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos voted Wednesday to recommend giving mental health professionals, not just police officers, the authority to send people into emergency detentions. That authority initially would be allowed in Milwaukee County, but could be extended statewide after two years.
The panel also recommended creating a way for families and other interested parties to request that counties begin an emergency detention and petition a judge to require the detention if the county does not act, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday.
The task force, which was established by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, agreed to a series of recommendations in concept and will finalize its report in coming weeks. The Assembly could take them up later this year. Gov. Scott Walker has called for doing more to address mental health needs in the state, but has not weighed in on the committee's specific proposals.
Wisconsin is one of only five states that require police officers detain a patient in an emergency. In other states, doctors and other health professionals can order a person into care.
The issue is most pronounced in Milwaukee County, where police last year brought in 973 people whom doctors sent home because they did not meet the standard of dangerousness. At the same time, police have refused to bring in others, whom family members — even doctors — consider dangerously ill.
Other task force recommendations include:
— Creating pilot programs in up to four counties that would assist inmates in signing up for BadgerCare Plus health insurance and other public benefits when they are released from jail. The effort is meant to reduce recidivism.
— Making it easier for families to access in-home treatment for children through BadgerCare Plus and other Medicaid programs.
— Providing grants to law enforcement crisis intervention teams that are trained to respond to people with mental health issues.
— Providing matching funds to counties for mobile mental health crisis teams in rural areas.
How much the recommendations would cost won't be known until the bills are introduced for the Legislature to consider.