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Milwaukee County doesn't expect to see proposal on emergency psychiatric services

Monday, October 30, 2017  
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October 30, Wisconsin Health News

Milwaukee County Mental Health Board members don’t expect the vendor that could take over services at the Mental Health Complex to propose operating emergency services.

The county has been searching for a provider to take on inpatient and emergency services offered at the complex for years. The sole vendor left in the process is Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services, which is set to submit its proposal Nov. 6.

“We are not expecting for them to have included a proposal for providing psych emergency room services at this time,” board member Dr. Jon Lehrmann said during a meeting last week. “We’ve had some preliminary conversations with them that have indicated that may not be in their plan.” 

Mike Lappen, administrator for the county's Behavioral Health Division, said in an interview that Universal Health Services could include alternatives to the emergency room or other ideas in their proposal.

But he said that the provider has indicated it would be a challenge to provide the services and has proposed a design that doesn’t have space for a psychiatric emergency room.

“We don’t know what will be in the final proposal, but UHS has expressed concerns about the financial liability of replicating our current psychiatric services emergency room,” Lappen said. “We will have to come up with some relationship with them or with others to replicate it.”

Universal Health Services didn’t say whether it would submit a bid for emergency services or not in a statement.

But the provider is “continuing its discussions with stakeholders regarding the needs of the community, and will submit its proposal according to the timeframe.”

Lappen noted that they don’t think the county can continue to operate in their current space as the “building is falling apart.”

But he said they have time to find a solution as they’ll operate their facility until after they make the transition to UHS.

“We will come up with a viable solution,” he said. “We’re not going to abandon our statutory responsibilities.”

That could be an expansion of community interventions. Lappen said the number of visits to the county's emergency room has declined from about 15,000 to roughly 8,500 over the last few years. 

He said they haven’t reached out to providers directly, but they’re having conversations through the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership about how they might collaborate “across the continuum of care.”

“The best scenario is that there’s a collaborative, continuum of care that includes all of the health systems and us,” he said.