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New Milwaukee County mental hospital moves forward

By Joe Lanane

The Milwaukee County Board is forging ahead with plans to build a new mental health hospital despite the objections of some supervisors.

Twelve Milwaukee County supervisors and County Executive Scott Walker recently endorsed constructing a new hospital to replace the Behavioral Health Division building on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa.

The county board will review Monday whether to approve spending $10.7 million for construction design plans, the scope of which is to be decided by June. The item was laid over at Thursday’s board meeting.

A subcommittee to include members appointed by Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway will meet Dec. 1 to come up with recommendations for what the new building should include.

Supervisor Patricia Jursik said the board should consider ways to improve patient care in the existing structure instead of constructing a new hospital.

“The Behavioral Health crisis is not about a new building,” Jursik said. “We don’t have the financial capacity to do this, and we’re way ahead of ourselves talking about a new building.”

Jursik said the county could not afford to borrow enough money to cover construction costs, and she suggested the board instead review plans to remodel the existing building.

But before plans for a new hospital are abandoned, the subcommittee should meet, Supervisor Jim Schmitt said.

“Because of the bonding, maybe they’ll find it’s not feasible after all and we’ll have to reinvent the wheel,” Schmitt said. “We’ll have to be open to that possibility, but this committee would be best set up to make this decision.”

Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo said more information is needed before moving forward with the project.

“We cannot make a decision on a facility until we make a decision on what services to include,” Sanfelippo said. “We want to make sure we’re utilizing those resources as best as possible.”

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