Plans are underway for a new mental health emergency center on the North Side that will bring unprecedented psychiatric services to residents.
The proposed center is expected to open in March 2022 and provide 24-hour mental health services near North 12th and West Walnut streets, making services more widely accessible to the central city residents, in particular. The center would occupy a lot currently owned by Milwaukee County.
A virtual town hall about the project is planned for Thursday, Jan. 21.
The project is a joint effort between the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division and four major area health systems: Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert Health.
The project also receives support from the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership. Pete Carlson, president of Advocate Aurora Health, said without the Partnership’s efforts to unite these services, plans for the center would not have gotten this far.
Carlson said each partner will contribute to funding for the program. The Behavioral Health Division will provide 50% of the funding, and each of the health systems will provide 12.5%. The center is projected to cost $22 million.
Carlson said the center will combine the county’s clinical expertise in treating patients with the management of the health systems.
He said a shortage of mental health providers makes it difficult to provide psychiatric services in emergency departments for the health systems. He expects the center to help give services to a population that needs it.
“This is what we consider a specialty niche,” Carlson said. “Health systems can’t provide that 24/7.”
In addition, Carlson said psychiatric services in the county are not always easy for people to get to. He said the new center’s location should make this care much more accessible.
The Rev. Walter J. Lanier, pastor of the Progressive Baptist Church and a member of the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board, said the center will be a good first step in bringing more psychiatric services to the city. He said the center will also help leaders connect to the community and hear more about their needs.
“It’s more visible, more tangible, [and] people are aware of it,” he said.
Lanier said he expected the center to reduce any stigma for receiving mental health services, an important hurdle to getting more people help. He said having a “first-class, world-class building that people want to go in” and that people in the community know is OK will be key.
“It leads by its presence,” he said.
A virtual town hall is being held Thursday, Jan. 21 to discuss the center.
The town hall is meant to inform residents, said Ald. Russell Stamper, who represents the 15th Aldermanic District, and to give them an opportunity to comment. It will begin at 5 p.m. and be hosted on Zoom.
Stamper said “the need is great” for mental health services in the area. Referrals for mental health services in the district are up, he said, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want people to know this is a part of the community, not from some outside entity,” Stamper said.
Carlson said the center will run independently, despite its connection to the health systems.
The center is expected to employ 70 full-time workers as well as dozens of union construction workers from James Phelps Construction, Stamper said.
About the virtual town hall
The town hall will be hosted over Zoom:
Zoom Webinar ID: 829 0225 5141
Anyone interested can also click this link to get into the Zoom call. They can also call in at 312-626-6799.
The town hall will feature Stamper, Lanier, James Phelps of JCP Construction, senior design architect David Groth and representatives from Milwaukee County and the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership.
About psychiatric crisis services
The Behavioral Health Division’s crisis services are available to everyone in Milwaukee County. There are resource locations at 2057 S. 14th St. on the South Side and 5409 W. Villard Ave. on the North Side. There also is a 24-hour emergency room at 9455 W. Watertown Plank Rd. in Wauwatosa.
When it is constructed, the mental health emergency center will replace the psychiatric emergency room in Wauwatosa.
The county’s crisis line is (414) 257-7222.