“I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough
It didn’t take long for our state-wide euphoria in Wisconsin over the football Super Bowl victory to dissipate. All it took was new Governor Scott Walker taking office. Ironically, this is the same Scott Walker, who in his previous position as Executive of Milwaukee County, oversaw a public mental health inpatient facility that had unqualified leadership, sexual abuse of women patients by a psychiatrist as well as other male patients, and let its accreditation lapse.
Conflict over his proposed budget proposal has escalated between Democrats and Republicans, union backers and union busters, and worst of all, between families and friends. For example, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s front page story on February 26 reported how Milwaukee Public Schools psychologist Jessica Coyle was reportedly in tears after reading a cousin’s Facebook post calling public employees “whores and a bunch of other nasty things”. The psychologist then sent a message to the cousin saying: “Hey, remember me, your family member. I am a public employee and I am not a whore”. Hoping for an apology, she instead got an approval to defriend the cousin. So much also for the call for more civility after the Arizona shootings.
We’ve seen behavior in Wisconsin that most of us have not seen in our lifetimes. When have politicians of one party fled to another state? When was the Capitol building been occupied by such large numbers of dissenters? The 1960s!? Given that the deficit problems are spreading to other states, maybe Wisconsin is the canary in the coalmine. In the next such conflict may be the Green Bay Packers football players, who (with players from the other teams) are engaging in contentious collective bargaining with owners over money. If a lockout occurs for next season, no collective happiness can ensue.
Some of this conflict stems from the problem of healthcare costs. How much should individual workers pay themselves? Can – and should – the union still bargain for them? Recall that our whole employer connected healthcare insurance came as a partial replacement for wages. You’d think we don’t have a helpful healthcare reform on the way. Maybe we don’t, or maybe it will be too late for some. Many suspect that Governor Walker is also out to downsize our Medicaid coverage due to the deficit. Anybody still for a universal, single payer system like Canada’s? I am.
Community mental healthcare and centers were of course political products. They came out of President Kennedy’s administration and meant to serve the behavioral healthcare needs of those most in financial need. President Reagan, quoted at the beginning of this blog, dismantled this system by turning the federal funding into block grants that the states could use in other ways than mental healthcare. Now we are encountering massive losses of jobs and further reduction of funding for public mental health, yet at the same time the prevalence of depression and anxiety is increasing with less resources for help.