Former Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division leader named CEO of new Granite Hills Hospital

Jennifer Bergersen

Last updated on June 14th, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Jennifer Bergersen, the former chief operations officer for Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, has been hired to lead the new Granite Hills Hospital in West Allis.

Bergersen began her role as chief executive officer of the under-construction 120-bed behavioral health hospital on June 7.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this new, state-of-the-art behavioral health care hospital in Milwaukee,” she said. “Our approach will focus on our community and provide a safe, quality experience for those most in need who deserve excellent behavioral health care.”

The $33 million facility is being built at 1706 S. 68th St. and is expected to begin its phased opening in September. The hospital is owned by Universal Health Services, a Pennsylvania-based private behavioral health hospital operator.

Bergersen has spent nearly 22 of her 25 years in the behavioral health field with the county. After joining the division in 1999 as a psychiatric social worker in the inpatient unit, she went on to become a psychiatric social service supervisor, director of acute inpatient services, associate director of clinical compliance, chief quality officer, chief clinical officer and ultimately COO.

During that time, Bergersen has seen the BHD undergo a major overhaul as it’s worked to shift away from institutionalized care to a more community-based mental health care model.

The opening of the new Granite Hills hospital is a significant milestone in the division’s transformation. When it opens, the county will outsource its acute inpatient behavioral health services to the private hospital, which leaders say will free up resources for it to focus on delivering care through partnerships in the community. BHD leaders describe the strategy as building out a mental health infrastructure that has more robust services “upstream” – before challenges escalate to a crisis point – to reduce the reliance on emergency care.

Granite Hills will provide inpatient care for adults, older adults, children and adolescents for those who are in crisis, and it plans to offer outpatient and day treatment programs as well.

“No one organization or facility can meet all the behavioral health needs of a community,” Bergersen said. “We really have to work together and in tandem and to network and support one another, because individuals are on this recovery journey and they’re going to need different levels of care in different places in their life.”

Granite Hills’ 120 beds will be split into five groups of 24 with enclosed outdoor spaces. The facility will also include a full-court gymnasium, internal and external courtyards, and hospital units designed with maximum supervision for those in severe crises, leaders say. Quality and patient safety are top priorities in the new hospital, Bergersen said.

“Not everyone understands or appreciates just how well a well-constructed behavioral health setting can help someone heal,” she said.

Granite Hills is currently hiring staff for the new hospital, which when fully operational is expected to have 250 to 300 employees. Those positions include nurses, physicians, clinicians, mental health technicians and support staff. Current inpatient BHD staff are invited to apply for the open Granite Hills positions.

“We all know in the community, not only at Granite Hills Hospital but all of our partners, that there is a need for specialized staff to do this very important work, so I am counting on staff at the Behavioral Health Division to apply and be part of our team,” Bergersen said.

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