Wisconsin News

Tammy Baldwin tours Gundersen Lutheran, highlights mental health care need

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin made a stop in La Crosse on Friday.

She toured Gundersen Lutheran Health System's new facilities, including the recently finished Inpatient Behavioral Health building.

Baldwin's visit comes just a week before she returns to Washington to take part in a Senate committee meeting on the state of mental health care in the U.S.

Gundersen Lutheran's new Inpatient Behavioral Health facility will help make sure patients don't have to travel for miles to receive the care they need.

It was a problem in the La Crosse area and is still a problem in many places across the U.S.

As the nation debates the problem of gun violence, lawmakers are also taking a closer look at the mental health care system.


"Immediately when I get back to Washington, D.C., next week, one of the committees on which I sit will be holding a hearing on the status of the mental health system in the United States," said Baldwin.

Baldwin says it's important that people in the La Crosse area now have access to care right here near their homes.

"I can't imagine a family who has a loved one in mental health crisis who is told the nearest bed is across the state, and a patient who doesn't have the support of their family and their community in terms of healing," said Baldwin.

It's an important service that is growing harder and harder to come by.

"So many institutions right now are running in the opposite direction and closing beds that have been dedicated to behavioral health," said Baldwin.

While making sure we have good mental health care is not a new concern, it's come under the microscope in light of the recent mass shootings that have sparked gun control debate.

Gov. Scott Walker spoke of the issue at a stop in La Crosse on Thursday.

"A fundamental similarity seems to be a breakdown in the mental health system," said Walker.

That's why Walker says he will focus Wisconsin's efforts not on gun control but on how to improve mental health care.

"One thing I am doing in the next week or so, we've set up about 25 mental health experts from around the state, folks from different hospitals, clinics, from law enforcement and others to talk about how do we get to the source of this problem in the first place. What is it that drives people in a situation like this and what more can we do not only as a state but as a society?" said Walker.

Walker says he may make room for mental health care in the state's budget.

He says one idea is to target funding for crisis intervention services.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System has been contacted by the governor's office to take part in the mental health discussion.

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