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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Issue of the Week: Auditing the County Mental Health Complex

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What is Scott Walker hiding? Despite reports of numerous sexual assaults, a patient’s pregnancy, two drug overdoses, weapons possession and the threat of $60 million of federal funds being cut off, Walker and his political cronies are attempting to sweep the abuses at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex under the rug. Last week, a handful of Milwaukee County supervisors and Democratic legislators called for a state audit and increased county oversight of the complex. Their concerns are real: Questions are not being answered and patient safety is not assured.

But instead of working to improve care for the county’s most vulnerable residents, Walker’s Republican apologists blasted back with knee-jerk political hackery. “Clearly this is a calculated effort being waged against Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker to derail his gubernatorial run,” wailed Sen. Mary Lazich, while Sen. Alberta Darling called it a “political stunt” in a press release sent out by the Walker campaign to trivialize the issue.

Fortunately, unlike Sens. Lazich and Darling, most Milwaukeeans understand these are serious issues that need to be addressed. Indeed, the proposed audit is not a political stunt. The safety and treatment of patients at the complex is far more serious than that. There must be a thorough assessment of the operations of the mental health complex before there’s another rape, another death, another security lapse. Walker knows the problems run very deep and have been ignored on his watch. And that’s why he doesn’t want anyone to take a close look at them.

Event of the Week

Milwaukee Fair Trade Crawl on Saturday, May 8

This event seems to get bigger and better each year. The Milwaukee Fair Trade Coalition’s third annual Fair Trade Crawl is a great way to support socially responsible businesses, as well as an easy way to come up with a perfect Mother’s Day gift. This year, more than 30 businesses in Bay View, the East Side, Riverwest, the West Side, Wauwatosa and the outer suburbs will participate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 8. Many are offering free samples, sales and performances. New this year is an educational treasure hunt—find featured items at participating retailers and you could win a cool prize. For more information, go to www.milwfairtrade.org.

Hero of the Week: Jeff Phillips

The Parenting Network of Milwaukee believes that adults who are confident, knowledgeable and skilled in their parenting abilities are more likely to raise healthy and productive children. To this end, the nonprofit organization offers services to people seeking to improve their parenting skills.

Crucial to the success of this mission is the involvement of volunteers such as Jeff Phillips. In addition to his full-time work as a railroad employee, Phillips has been teaching the “Dad Matters” class every Saturday morning for more than seven years. The course stresses the importance of fathers in successful child development, and offers insights into how to be a more effective parent. Like most programs at the Parenting Network, there is no fee, but registration is required.

The Parenting Network is located at 7516 W. Burleigh St. Readers who wish to utilize these services or volunteer to help are encouraged to call 414-671-5575 or visit www.theparentingnetwork.org.

Jerk of the Week: State Sen. Glenn Grothman

Shameless. With reasoning straight out of the Dark Ages, West Bend Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman attacked the new and very necessary mental health parity law, which requires group health insurance policies to cover mental illnesses and addiction treatment at the same level as other illnesses. Grothman sent out a press release with the absurd claims that psychology is a “very subjective field,” mental illness is “more of a cultural phenomenon than a medical phenomenon” and that a “down-to-earth state like Idaho” has fewer mental health professionals than “a very left-wing state like Vermont.” Here’s the reality: Mental illnesses are biologically based. Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and a host of other mental illnesses are not the result of moral failing, political views or lack of willpower. Instead of defending immoral, profit-driven insurance companies, Grothman should help people get treatment, live full lives and make positive contributions to their families and communities.

Deal of the Week

Want to change your life and/or career? The Open Book bookstore in Shorewood, which is for sale at a fire-sale price, may be of interest to you. If you are interested, please contact Keith by calling 414-963-0847 or e-mailing schmitz1@ameritech.net.