Last updated on June 27th, 2019 at 10:32 am
Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan said he opposes Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services’ plans to build a new behavioral health hospital in West Allis, arguing it should instead be located at the Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa.
Universal Health Services, a private behavioral health hospital operator, unveiled plans last week to build a $33 million hospital at 1706 S. 68th St., located at the southeast corner of South 68th Street and West Mitchell Street. UHS has submitted an offer to the city of West Allis Community Development Authority to purchase the site for the proposed 83,000-square-foot facility.
When the new hospital opens, the services currently provided at the psychiatric hospital in the county’s Mental Health Complex at 9455 W. Watertown Plank Road in Wauwatosa will shift to the UHS facility.
Weishan, whose district includes West Allis, said developing the new facility near the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa would be better for patients.
“A County Grounds location would be closer to those in most need, it would not be in a residential neighborhood, and it would avoid converting land currently zoned for industrial use,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “Utilizing the County Grounds land for this purpose would also place patients closer to the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, and therefore closer to complementary resources.”
Weishan also raised issue with the direction of the county’s approach to mental health services.
In recent years, the county’s Behavioral Health Division has been in the process of moving services off its aging, 900,000-square-foot campus that was built in 1978 to provide acute, long-term and emergency psychiatric care. The shift has involved moving to a more community-based system of care that relies less on inpatient admissions and emergency room visits. The outsourcing of the acute mental health services to UHS paves the way for the county to eventually close the Wauwatosa complex.
In 2014, former Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law that stripped the county board of oversight of the mental health system and established the Milwaukee County Mental Health Board in its place.
“The recent approach to mental health care in Milwaukee County is far from perfect,” Weishan said. “In fact, I believe it is less responsive towards patients’ needs than the old system, and dangerous. West Allis’ East Side has a bright future with new, exciting development and this proposal for a mental health facility is out of character with the area. I’m eager to work together with all stakeholders to find a more adequate solution to help our community that we can all be proud of. The current proposed development should not be approved.”
Construction on the new hospital is expected to begin this year and the facility is expected to open in 2021. The proposal is expected to undergo review by the West Allis plan commission and common council over a series of future meetings.
Representatives with the county and UHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.