ACA can help county treat mental health

Violence is a complicated public health issue. We have seen heartless and ruthless behavior among citizens who use violent actions or sometimes even lethal force to solve problems. That exposes a deeper issue in our community. The violent society we all live in leads more people to normalize these situations. We can’t allow that to happen. With the many young people and numerous residents dying, it is proof we are losing this battle to decrease violence and violent crime in our community.

Is the answer to create longer sentences or tougher laws? I think it’s possible criminals who have the intent to hurt and destroy are not thinking clearly about the repercussion until after they have committed a crime. Is the answer to invest in more police presence and quicker response times? I think it’s possible we could add more money for more officers who are available after these situations occur. So along with community based policing and programs, what can we do to stop violence before people decide to pull the trigger?

One thing we cannot overlook is the impact the lack of mental health and health care access has on our community. Some of our citizens are roaming the streets unstable, mentally and physically, and most cannot afford treatment because they can’t afford health care. Thank God for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With registration starting this week we have a great opportunity to work with the federal government to insure all individuals in Milwaukee County, especially those with low incomes. Now those who once were left out will get access to physical and mental healthcare.

These are the critical services in mental health: Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA), Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and other psychiatric conditions. Under the Affordable Care Act psychiatric case management, counseling and treatment are covered and can help those who could otherwise be involved in violent incidents. This will allow them to make better decisions than to engage in or start violent altercations and end up incarcerated. With the ACA there will be fewer people slipping through the cracks.

The Affordable Care Act is just one way to address violence and violent crime, but we still must do more. Law enforcement must invest in more community-based policing strategies and work with residents in troubled areas. Neighborhood Watch groups must grow and actively engage local government to address problem properties and issues in their neighborhoods. Young people must be brought to the leadership table, and local governments must work harder to ensure economic development and a growing economy so people can find jobs and support their families.

I personally will do more, informing constituents of ACA, making sure an informational campaign agreed to by Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and the County Executive is properly funded to ensure residents sign up for the new ACA Health Care Exchanges are implemented effectively.

Finally, I plan to work with community-based organizations to reach out to at-risk populations like those exiting our County Corrections and Mental Health systems. In turn, I hope everyone receives the care they need to create a more safe and sustainable community. The future and quality of life of our community depends on it.

David Bowen is a supervisor on the Milwaukee County Board.

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