And every year, Walker tried to privatize the Community Support Programs, which are the programs that allowed people with mentally health issues to succeed in living in the community.
Fortunately, every year, the county board had the wisdom to undo Walker's cuts to these programs.
Then came along Boss Abele, Walker's buddy and protege. Abele succeeded where Walker failed by buying some state legislatures to remove the county board - and the people's voice - from how the mental health system should be run. Now it is under the control of a panel of Abele's and Walker's political appointees who aren't answerable to anyone.
I have repeatedly pointed out how dangerous and unpopular Abele's agenda. Unfortunately, the local paper has chosen to schmooze Abele by covering up the problems.
Fortunately, the real people that are being harmed by Abele's poorly thought out and calloused approach are starting to speak out for themselves and their loved ones.
One such person, Patricia Spoerl, had the courage to speak truth to power in an effort to protect her son, a person who has benefited from the county's Community Support Programs:
People with serious mental illness need consistent care with continuity of caregivers. The caregivers need time to get to know their clients as individuals and earn their trust. Too many changes can be disorienting and upsetting for those with mental illness.Sadly, the privatization will happen in a few weeks and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, especially when Abele took away control of the system from the people of Milwaukee County.
Now people with mental illness are going to be transferred to private, nonprofit agencies. These agencies often do not pay adequate wages, and their caseworkers often are overburdened with cases. Employee burnout is a real risk for caseworkers dealing with severely mentally disabled clients. Those of us with friends and family members who have mental illness have many stories to share about private CSPs, not all of them encouraging. John has been served both by a private CSP and by the county CSP, and he has said repeatedly that the county CSP is by far the best program of any he has dealt with.
Due to privacy regulations, county CSP workers have been hampered in telling their side of the story.
As Milwaukee County shuts down its hospital for those with mental illness, I certainly would have preferred that the money saved have been put back into the county CSPs and that these tried-and-true, professionally run programs be expanded rather than shut down and outsourced.
Public officials charged with overseeing care for those with mental illness must provide the private agencies with the resources they need to serve their clients well and monitor their performance closely. Our whole community has an obligation to demand adequate care for those of our neighbors who need a great deal of professional and compassionate assistance if they are to live dignified human lives.
Also sadly, there probably won't be much of an uproar about it. It's another lesson Boss Abele learned from his friend and mentor, Walker - no one cares about crazy people.