​Hmong mental health focus of meeting

Written by Kevin Lu, Stevens Point Journal Media


State Rep. Katrina Shankland met with leaders of the Stevens Point area’s Hmong community Friday to address the health care concerns of Hmong residents.
Shankland, from the 71st Assembly District representing Stevens Point, was at the office of the Hmong American Association of Portage County to discuss mental health awareness in the community. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among the Hmong population, according to the Asian American Justice Center.
“Hmong people are very reluctant to seek mental health,” said Thai Vue, executive director of the Wisconsin United Coalitions of Mutual Assistance Associations. “There is a stigma if you make your mental health problems known to people, they would consider you a crazy person.”
The two Hmong advocacy organizations asked Shankland for $575,000 from Gov. Scott Walker’s upcoming budget to put toward mental health education and referrals. Shankland asked them to write letters to Walker and offered to provide the addresses of members of the Joint Finance Committee.
“It’s very important for you all to write him,” Shankland said. “As your two organizations and as individuals ... if he gets 500 or 300 letters, he might actually consider it.”
Shankland said she would try to squeeze the topic into her scheduled 20-minute meeting with Walker on March 20, at which they also will discuss plight of Stevens Point software company Skyward, which recently lost a $15 million contract with the state.
Friday’s meeting also touched on tobacco use and healthy diets because heart disease and cancer are other leading causes of Hmong deaths.
“With the state programs and federal programs, in terms of heart disease and mental health, the Asian population is not on their radar screen,” Vue said.
State Rep. Mandy Wright from the 85th Assembly District in Wausau also was scheduled to meet with Hmong leaders Friday. Shankland said she will confer with Wright and work on a game plan.


“I’m very supportive of this,” Shankland told the room of about a dozen people. “I absolutely agree we need to have additional mental health funding.”