Plan to Increase Mental Health Help Reaches New Level

Brown County Seal

Brown County leaders are now beginning work on a first of its kind initiative to fill gaps in mental health services to help keep people out of jail.

The plan calls for using $1.15 million dollars of Brown County money to better help people with mental health concerns, many of them cycling through the court system.

Action 2 News first told you about the proposal in October.

Now that the Brown County Board has approved the budget, the mental health task force is setting to work.

“We are probably, as far as doing the whole package and doing this at once, that’s probably one of the more ambitious projects I’ve seen,” says Erik Pritzl, executive director of Brown County Human Services.

It’s a project Pritzl believes is long overdue.

He sees first-hand the gaps in mental health coverage for this community.

“The reality is, depending on the estimates you look at, it’s either one in four or one in five people have a mental health issue that they’re trying to deal with,” says Pritzl.

And much of that is connected in some way to alcohol and drugs.

“We frequently see those coming together, and one may be driving the other in some situations,” says Sharla Baenen, Bellin Psychiatric Center president.

The county’s initiative has four parts. One part is the creation of a mobile crisis team, which the mental health task force hopes to have in operation in a matter of months.

It also includes a day report center for counseling, drug testing or employment assistance, as well as a detox center and continued or transitional treatment after that.

“So that when we’re providing care and helping somebody through that initial acute period, there will be follow up services that will start to engage them in treatment, which is really key if we’re going to break the cycle of addiction,” says Baenen.

Task force members are working on formal contracts to expand current services or start new ones. They set a target date of late spring to start offering this expanded help for people facing mental health problems.

“I am eager to get this going, but I know that it needs to be done well and it needs to be done right,” adds Pritzl.