Smiling child

DRW Celebrates Historic Closure of Hilltop Facility and Opportunity for Community Life for Residents

This week marks the closure of Hilltop, the 72 bed long term care center for people with co-occurring mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex.  Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) celebrates this historic closure, and the opportunity for Hilltop residents to live more independently as contributing members of our community, closer to family and friends.

DRW is mandated as one of the members of the State Relocation Team when an institution closes and residents to be relocated are identified as having mental, developmental, or physical disabilities.  We have participated in many institution closings.  The Hilltop closing process was noteworthy for the strong collaboration of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division staff, Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), community providers, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, advocates from DRW and the Board on Aging and Long Term Care, Milwaukee County Disability Services staff, and many others who supported residents and guardians through this transition and worked to ensure a high quality, individualized community placements for each resident.

Adequate funding is essential to developing quality community placements and supports.  We commend the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for providing additional funding needed to ensure quality placements and the MCOs which worked with community providers to develop person centered placements and strong staffing plans.  Community and crisis services are key to the long term success of these placements.  We thank Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele for the County’s investments in a new Community Consultation Team, community based respite beds, and a commitment to develop and maintain a new Crisis Resource Center in 2015 which will serve people with intellectual disabilities.

Looking forward, the closure of Hilltop provides an important opportunity to reallocate funding used to support Hilltop to make greatly needed investments in expansion of community services.  As recommended in numerous studies, county resolutions, and throughout the transition process, savings from closing Hilltop, as well as the Rehab Central facility, should be invested to support expansion of community services and supports.

As Disability Rights Wisconsin staff follow up with guardians and former Hilltop residents who have relocated to the community, it has been heartening to see how individuals are thriving with this new opportunity for greater independence and self determination.  This is a tremendous milestone for the residents and for Milwaukee County.