Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Abele's Best Practices For Mentally Ill: Incarceration?!

While Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he and his staff had utter contempt for the mentally ill.  They allowed the facility to fall to rot and allowed patients to sexually and physically assault each other and staff.  As Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker's then Deputy Chief of Staff and campaign fundraiser, said, "No one cares about crazy people."

Chris Abele and his staff apparently have the same feeling, since Abele picked up where Walker left off in dismantling the mental health complex and abandoning the mentally ill.  When the County Board stepped in and dared to put safety nets in place, Abele ran to his old buddy, Teapublican and fellow millionaire Joe Sanfelippo, to pass a law that allowed Abele to put the mentally ill at the mercy of corporate vultures.

Abele kept trying to insist that this was "best practices" for the mentally ill, even though a long line of doctors, clinicians and nurses spoke out against it.  People that genuinely cared about these vulnerable citizens warned that if Abele was allowed to kick these people out of the hospital without sufficient support services, they could end up homeless, in prison or dead.

Abele would only respond by bleating out "Best practices!"

On Tuesday, Walker, Abele and Sanfelippo celebrated their depravity as Walker signed the law that removed the last safety net for Milwaukee's mentally ill.

Also on Tuesday, those that warned of the problems that would arise only had their fears confirmed by a national report showing that jails and prisons now hold ten times more mentally ill people than mental health hospitals (emphasis mine:
The main goal of deinstitutionalization, which began in the late 1950s, was to get patients out of large, public institutions where they were largely hidden from public view. Instead, the hope was to give mentally health patients the treatment they needed to integrate into the community, with a support system that encouraged access to jobs and housing.

The population in state mental hospitals fell to 154,000 in 1980 and, according to the TAC report out today, now hovers around 35,000. At least some states do not have any publicly-funded psychiatric hospitals at all any more.

As the number of hospital beds at state psychiatric hospitals has shrunk, advocates have become worried about whether patients have access to adequate treatment — and whether the prison and jail system has become a stand-in for the psychiatric hospitals that are disappearing.

"Looking back, it is possible to see the mistakes, and a primary problem was that mental health policy makers overlooked the difficulty of finding resources to meet the needs of a marginalized group of people living in scattered sites in the community," Chris Koyanagi of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health concluded in his 2007 history of deinstitutionalization.
Yet Abele, with the help of Walker and Sanfelippo, rushed headlong into this situation.

If this Abele's "best practices," I'd hate to see what his worst ones are.

1 comment:

  1. Beware what lesson to draw from the Mother Jones article though. If you read further, the TAC folks think that the answer is forced treatment, rather than a well-funded progressive safety net. They don't believe in comprehensive community mental health, peer-specialist services, or patient advocacy, and are trying to DEFUND the patient protection program that helped blow the whistle in MKE. More info from the Bazelon Center at