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News & Press: Legislative Updates

Budget would provide $15 million to HSHS Western Wisconsin to expand mental health bed capacity

Monday, June 24, 2019  
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June 21, Wisconsin Health News

Tucked into the state’s 2019-21 budget bill is $15 million that would head to two western Wisconsin hospitals to expand their mental health services.

Republicans proposed funding a northern Wisconsin regional crisis center early last week in a revised version of Gov. Tony Evers’ capital budget. The Assembly and Senate are planning to vote next week on the proposal.

Sen. Kathleen Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, and Rep. Jesse James, R-Altoona, pushed for the funding due to concerns from local officials and law enforcement about transporting patients in a mental health crisis across the state to available beds.

The money would add mental health beds at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls.

Bernier said that it would better position the facilities to serve residents of the 29 counties in northern, western and central Wisconsin.

“This plan is good for our community and great for people in need of treatment,” Bernier said in a statement.

James said the proposal could save county and local governments more than $2.7 million every year by reducing the time it takes for transports.

Andrew Bagnall, president and CEO of HSHS Western Wisconsin Division, said that the proposal aligns with the health system’s mission of meeting the community's needs.

"We've been caring for this region for over 130 years," Bagnall said in an interview with Wisconsin Health News. "This project does directly tie into that and how we can best serve the community."