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Statement from Disability Rights Wisconsin Regarding Advocacy Services for Patients at the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex

March 22, 2010

Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) is the designated protection and advocacy agency for people with mental illness and other disabilities in Wisconsin. In that role, we advocate for people with disabilities who experience abuse or neglect or other violations of their rights. We are deeply concerned about the recent reports of assaults and other citations at the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex and possible systemic failures which may include neglect of vulnerable people by staff. This is intolerable and we are committed to working with other stakeholders to move forward with systemic change and doing everything possible to ensure that the hospital provide a safe and healing environment for patients. We are in the process of reviewing the citations, corrective action plan, policies and procedures, and other records; and communicating with the state and CMS as they move forward with their responsibilities related to monitoring and/or investigation; as well as contacting the patients and/or guardians.

As the protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in our state, we want to remind you that if patients or guardians have concerns about patients’ rights, abuse or neglect, or access to services at the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex, you may refer them to DRW at our Milwaukee office at 414-773-4646. DRW may be able to provide advocacy services in these cases or provide a referral if that is more appropriate. We regularly have cases from the Complex, but clearly there are additional patients whose rights are being violated and are in need of advocacy services. Signs with our contact information are (again) being posted on all inpatient units and we will periodically be on site, although our ability to do this is restricted by our limited staff resources. We are working with Milwaukee County staff and others to ensure patients are aware of their rights and of our advocacy services.