Madison – On Tuesday the State Assembly passed over a dozen bills, including two authored by State Representative John Jagler (R-Watertown), that would increase access to mental health providers and help coordinate treatment. Both bills authored by Jagler passed unanimously. The bills were developed based on recommendations from the Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health, a bipartisan group of 11 legislators including Jagler that travelled throughout the state in order to hear testimony from over 70 experts. 
“Our intentions going into this process were to help eliminate barriers to treatment, promote early and voluntary intervention for those who need mental health services, improve coordination of care among those who treat individuals with mental illness, and reduce the stigma that often accompanies mental health diagnoses,” said Jagler. “The legislation that we just passed, including two bills that I authored, will help us accomplish these goals.”
The first bill authored by Representative Jagler, Assembly Bill 488, sets up an avenue for parties concerned about a potentially dangerous mental health crisis to petition a judge for an emergency detention if they believe that law enforcement or a county has incorrectly denied one. “This bill provides one final check on the system by allowing relatives who believe a loved one could be a danger to themself or others to have their voice heard,” Jagler said.

The second bill, Assembly Bill 455, would provide funds to be distributed through the Department of Health Services to counties for use on peer-run respite centers. “It’s clear from the testimony we’ve received in Task Force hearings that peer-run respite centers are effective because people with mental illness tend to feel more comfortable working with individuals who are familiar with what they are going through,” said Jagler. “These centers, which are run by people who have successfully participated in mental health treatment programs in the past, help diffuse crisis situations and eliminate costly visits to emergency rooms and hospitals.”
Other mental health bills passed in the Assembly increase access to care by providing grants and incentives for people to become mental health providers and to locate in underserved areas of the state. “Access to care was an issue we heard about at every single Mental Health Task Force hearing,” said Jagler. “Assembly Bill 452, which creates a child psychiatry access line, and Assembly Bill 454, which will create a primary care and psychiatry shortage grant program, will go a long way in helping underserved areas throughout our state.”
Additional bills passed on Tuesday would:
■ Make it easier for health plans and health care providers to share records about patients' mental health treatment.
■ Provide funding to counties for treatment and diversion programs that provide alternatives to prosecution for those who have committed crimes because of mental health issues.
■ Provide funding for a program to help people with serious mental illness find jobs.
■ Provide funding for rural counties to pay for mobile intervention teams to help people in a mental health crisis.
“This package of bills is a step in the right direction as we work to address the wide variety of issues surrounding mental health treatment in Wisconsin,” said Jagler. “I look forward to continuing the bipartisan dialogue that we started with this Task Force as we look for more solutions.”
The package of bills passed with broad bipartisan support and will now be considered by the State Senate.