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Task force issues mental health care recommendations

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Gazette staff
October 11, 2013

MADISON—A state task force has released a series of recommendations it believes will better serve those who suffer from mental illness.

Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, is a member of the task force appointed in February. The 11-member group held hearings throughout the state and took testimony from hospital officials, psychiatrists and other physicians, law enforcement, people who suffer from mental illness and family members.

The task force adopted about two dozen recommendations, many of which will be offered as legislation, Kolste said.

“I was honored to be chosen as a freshman legislator to serve on the task force,'' she said. “I learned a lot, and I think my experience in the medical field was valued.

“I believe that some of the task force recommendations have a chance to make a difference. Mental illness is a huge issue that continues to affect individuals, families and society in general.''

Among many other things, the task force recommends:

-- Grants for better training for law enforcement and corrections officers who deal with people with mental illness.

-- Reducing treatment barriers for minors.

-- Providing matching funds for counties to offer peer-run respite centers

-- Creation of a child psychiatry access line for use by pediatricians and primary care doctors.

-- Easier access to mental health services in schools.

-- A grant program to address the psychiatry shortage.

-- Reauthorization of a grant program to work on reducing the stigma of mental illness, which can act as a barrier to care.

Legislation won't solve the problem of mental illness, Kolste said.

“So many families are affected by mental illness,'' she said. “So much talent and energy is lost to the struggle against depression and mental illness.

“No task force can solve that, but we can keep looking for ways to reduce the effects of mental illness and improve the lives of as many people as possible.''



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