Attorney General Kaul Announces Emergency Detention Coalition Recommendations

WHA applauds the collaboration, much work ahead

February 11, 2021

Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) President and CEO Eric Borgerding participated in a virtual press conference on Feb. 11 hosted by Attorney General Josh Kaul announcing a set of policy and non-policy recommendations to address emergency detention challenges in Wisconsin. Also joining Attorney General Kaul at the announcement were Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake as well as representatives from local law enforcement, county human services agencies and consumers.  
“WHA applauds Attorney General Kaul’s proactive engagement and collaboration with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, law enforcement, the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Department of Health Services, consumers and others to develop a set of consensus recommendations that take a holistic approach to improve Wisconsin’s mental health emergency detention process,” said Borgerding. “Every year, thousands of individuals in psychiatric crisis arrive at Wisconsin hospital emergency departments,” said Borgerding. “Sometimes, those individuals are a danger to themselves or others but due to their mental illness are unwilling to voluntarily receive stabilizing care. To navigate these complex involuntary emergency detention situations, hospitals, law enforcement, county human services, and courts all play unique but interconnected roles in Wisconsin’s emergency detention system.”
The recommendations from the coalition include:
  • Establishing regional crisis assessment and stabilization facilities;
  • Expanding mental mobile crisis teams;
  • Expanding crisis intervention team (CIT) training;
  • Moving away from a centralized state facility model for involuntary, high acuity, short term inpatient psychiatric stabilization;
  • Promoting greater voluntary utilization of the medical clearance SMART form;
  • Exploring options to further utilize the WHA Psychiatric Bed Locator to improve the efficiency of the emergency detention system; and
  • Expanding telemedicine and audio-video technologies in the emergency detention process, including in emergency detention related court proceedings. 
Borgerding also commented on Wisconsin’s acute behavioral health workforce shortage, citing a recent DHS report finding that Wisconsin has a 117 FTE shortage of psychiatrists. He noted WHA-championed state graduate medical education matching grant program that is helping to graduate 25 additional psychiatrists in Wisconsin each year. Borgerding said that adding additional mental health beds will be challenging unless Wisconsin has the workforce resources to staff those beds. 
“The consensus recommendations organized by the attorney general provide a conceptual framework for improving Wisconsin’s often fragmented and inefficient county-based emergency detention system,” said Borgerding. “Challenges will remain, but these recommendations bring additional focus and stakeholder agreement on clear next steps to improve and reform Wisconsin’s emergency detention system that will benefit communities and patients.”
The attorney general’s announcement followed yesterday’s press release from Governor Tony Evers previewing a number of behavioral health proposals that will be in his proposed 2021-23 state budget to be released next week. Attorney General Kaul and Interim Secretary Timberlake noted areas of alignment between the proposals. Governor Evers’ press release can be found here.

This story originally appeared in the February 11, 2021 edition of WHA Newsletter