Archive for May, 2012

Wisconsin Supreme Court holds individual with Alzheimer’s disease not a proper subject for involuntary commitment

On May 18, 2012, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its decision in Helen E.F. v. Fond du Lac County, regarding the use of Chapter 51 mental health involuntary commitment procedures for individuals whose only diagnosis is Alzheimer’s with “behaviors.” Helen E.F., an 85-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s Disease, resided at a Fond du Lac County nursing home when she began to exhibit aggressive and agitated behaviors. The nursing home responded by calling the police and having Helen taken to the local hospital on an emergency detention. Eventually, Helen was involuntarily committed to a locked psychiatric unit where she was given psychotropic medications to manage her behavior. Helen’s public defender appealed this commitment.

DRW submitted amicus briefs at both the Appellate and Wisconsin Supreme Court levels. DRW’s position in this case was that a protective placement under Chapter 55 was much more suited to meet the needs of individuals with degenerative brain disorders such as Helen. The intent behind Chapter 51 mental health commitment law was to recognize the applicability of recovery concepts for individuals with mental illness. Involuntary hospitalization constitutes a severe restriction of an individual’s liberty and should be used for the shortest time possible, allowing the individual to return to their home and community and resume their daily lives. Any need that Helen might have for services to deal with her agitation and aggression could have been sought out under that system. More likely than not, this could have been accomplished right at her existing placement, thus avoiding the confusion and trauma of moving her to a locked psychiatric unit. In fact, it is often because of the lack of appropriate services in the community that crisis situations emerge which then lead to traumatizing emergency detentions.

The Supreme Court held that because Helen’s condition was not capable of cure or treatment, only behavior management, she was not “a proper subject for treatment” as required under Chapter 51. Although DRW agrees with the exclusion of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain disorders, standing alone, as a basis for involuntary commitment under the Wisconsin Mental Health laws, it needs to be recognized that this is an area fraught with public policy issues that must be addressed. The Supreme Court mentioned in its concurrence that it hoped that the newly formed Legislative Council Study Committee on this topic would be able to dig into these questions so that crisis situations such as Helen’s can be averted in the future.

Click here to read the decision.

DRW weighs in on use of box to seclude students

There has been ongoing coverage of the use of a plywood box to seclude children in the Waupun School District. Here is the latest report which includes comment from DRW:

Click here to read the article and watch the video.

DRW Milwaukee Journal Op Ed re: MPS lawsuit

DRW Executive Director Tom Masseau and Milwaukee Office Director Barbara Beckert wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Journal-Sentinel about the ongoing MPS case. Click here to read the piece.

Announcing a new Violence Against Women with Disabilities and Deaf Women Project Resource available through DRW

Developed through the Violence Against Women with Disabilities and Deaf Women Project of Wisconsin, A Practical Guide for Creating Trauma-Informed Disability, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Organizations highlights and explores effective trauma-informed conditions or core values that victims, survivors and people with disabilities find essential for safety and healing. The Guide leads readers on a journey of exploration into the context of these conditions to promote dialogue and understanding, and spur implementation of strategies for domestic violence, sexual assault and disability organizations to become more trauma-informed. December 2011

Click here to download the Trauma Informed Guide.


The DRW Board of Directors will conduct a Listening Session in Green Bay on Fri, June 15 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt on Main Hotel. You are invited to come and tell the Board about the disability issues that need to be addressed by DRW. The Board uses this information to assist them in setting the agency’s priorities. This is also an opportunity to meet DRW’s new Executive Director, Tom Masseau.

Click here for the full announcement with location and other details regarding the Listening Session.
Click here for the full announcement in Spanish.
Click here for the full announcement in Hmong.


For job profile including application requirements and salary range click here; for detailed job description click here; or call 608-267-0214. Deadline: 6/8/2012; applications after that may be considered until position is filled. Members of racial/ethnic minority groups and persons with disabilities strongly encouraged to apply. EEO/AA Employer

Register now: May 22 Integrated Employment Summit: “What’s Working in Wisconsin”

Register now for the May 22 statewide Integrated Employment Summit, “What’s Working in Wisconsin.” Hear Success Stories! Learn about programs and strategies from around the state that are leading to more people with long-term support needs finding and keeping competitive-wage, community-based jobs.

Please pass on to your networks. Click here for details and registration info.

Survival Coalition issues 2012 Legislative Report Card

This spring’s legislative session provided some opportunities to make improvements to a biennial budget that had serious negative impacts on the disability community. The Survival Coalition of more than 40 disability organizations in Wisconsin assembled the following report card that summarizes Wisconsin state policy impact on the disability community during the past 10 months. It includes a biennial budget grade, legislative session grade, and cumulative grade on a series of topics that affect people with disabilities, their families, and allies.

Click here to read the 2012 WI Legislative Report Card.

Barbara Beckert received Women’s Health Foundation Champion Award

On Saturday, May 5 Barbara Beckert, DRW’s Milwaukee Office Director, received a Champion in Women’s Health Award recognizing her outstanding leadership regarding advocacy for persons with disabilities, particularly persons with mental illness. She is shown here receiving her award from Sue Ann Thompson, President of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation.

Recommendations for the 2013-15 Biennial Budget – Education

Disability Rights Wisconsin, along with other education stakeholders, participated in creating the Survival Coalition’s budget recommendations for Education for 2013-15 Biennial budget. These recommendations have been shared with the Governor’s office and the Department of Public Instruction.

Click here to read the recommendations.