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Milwaukee County's psychiatric hospital set to start construction to comply with CMS agreement

Wednesday, September 2, 2020  
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September 2, Wisconsin Health News

The Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division plans to start construction on the Mental Health Complex next week to comply with an agreement it made with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to keep its Medicare certification.

Behavioral Health Division Administrator Michael Lappen said they plan to begin the construction on Sept. 8 on two unoccupied patient spaces, with plans to be completed by early 2021. Once those spaces are updated and deemed safe, they’ll begin relocating patients until all clinical spaces meet guidelines.

The majority of items covered by the agreement are set to be completed in time, Lappen said. They’ve accelerated those that were behind schedule due to their complexity, like changes to ensure adequate documentation in their electronic health record.

“Really for the most part, things are going well, despite all of the challenges we face with resources and the distractions of COVID-19 and really the complexity of what is an enormous and systemic change for us,” Lappen told members of the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board last week. 

Lappen said they’re currently able to make the upgrades with the $3 million they requested from the board. But he said there are “questionable items,” some relating to the building’s ceiling, that may require additional funding, ranging from $1.5 to $2 million. 

Also, state inspectors sent by CMS showed up at the complex on Aug. 11 for an unannounced complaint survey around COVID-19 management. Lappen said no citations or recommendations were issued and the original complaint wasn't validated.

Lappen said they continue to work with private systems on how to handle psychiatric emergency services as the county transitions away from the Mental Health Complex. COVID-19 has slowed down discussions, he said.