On July 3, Governor Tony Evers signed the next two-year state budget. In doing so, he partially vetoed some parts of the budget that the legislature had passed, including funding that would have allocated $15 million to adding more mental health beds at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph's hospitals. Instead, Evers redirected that $15 million to expanding the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison.
While this is a setback in our journey of partnering with the state to expand mental health access in the Chippewa Valley, we are not giving up on this important matter. Since learning the news of the governor’s veto, we have been discussing with Sen. Kathy Bernier’s office as we look for other routes to move forward on this project. It is important for HSHS to proceed with trying to get public funding to enhance this service because behavioral health issues can lead to many implications throughout the community if not treated properly.
It was our hope that with $15 million in state funding for the Northern Wisconsin Regional Crisis Center, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals would have been able to add 22 new mental health beds. This would have been an enhancement to the existing units, creating a 33-bed adult unit at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and a dedicated 18-bed adolescent unit at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital. With these additional beds, the hospitals would have been better positioned to serve the residents of the 29 counties in northern, western and central Wisconsin.
We thank Sen. Bernier for making behavioral health care a high priority as she was able to get the legislature to include funds to improve the Northern Wisconsin Regional Crisis Center bill in the budget with support from Representative Jesse James. And, I want to thank everyone at HSHS who helped with the cause – hundreds of you wrote emails to the governor and did a great job of showing support for those who struggle with mental illness.
This veto does not change our mission to help all people – including those who struggle with mental illness. We will continue to serve people who need us with exceptional care and compassion.
Thank you so much for your dedication to behavioral health in the Chippewa Valley.
Andrew J. Bagnall, FACHE
President & CEO
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and HSHS Western Wisconsin Division
“To reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality Franciscan health care ministry”