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Mental Health Emergency Detention Bill passes Senate Committee on Health

MADISON – This week, Senator Nikiya Harris’s (DMilwaukee) bill relating to the emergency detention pilot program in Milwaukee County was passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on a unanimous vote.

Senate Bill 477 is a bipartisan measure that came from the Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health and creates a pilot program in Milwaukee County allowing qualified mental health professionals to initiate emergency detentions to individuals who are in need of emergency psychiatric treatment.

In response to the Committee’s vote, Senator Harris released the following statement:

“This bill is one step further in our state recognizing that those who are mentally ill should not be treated like criminals, but rather be given the care necessary to treat their illness.

Senate Bill 477 allows trained and qualified mental health professionals to be the ones referring individuals to psychiatric treatment.

Our current policy of allowing only law enforcement to initiate these detentions criminalizes these individuals by subjecting them to arrest records.

Police intervention in these precarious mental health situations puts mentally-ill individuals in the awkward position of being stigmatized for their illness.

By allowing health professionals to be the one calling the shots, individuals are able to access the therapeutic intervention they need, without the negative repercussions of police involvement.”

The Assembly Committee on Health took executive action on the Assembly version of Senate Bill 477 last week, authored by Representative Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood).

With such overwhelming bi-partisan support, Senator Harris is optimistic that the bills will reach the full Assembly and Senate for a vote this session.