Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the creation of a new one-stop mental and behavioral health center to help improve patients’ access to resources and care Monday.

The head of Dane County’s National Alliance on Mental Illness, State Rep. and County Board Supervisor Shelia Stubbs and other mental health advocates and area resource providers joined Parisi in this decision. 

The recently approved 2020 county budget will create the Dane County Universal Access Resource Center which works to connect public and private behavioral health providers. This new initiative will allow patients, providers and families to more easily navigate loved ones’ care. 

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“The very nature of mental illness can deter those who suffer from it from advocating for their own care and well-being,” Parisi said in the press release. “When you combine that with the maze of service options that are affected by whether one has insurance … it’s clear we as a community can do better in the area of mental health access.”

Parisi said the Universal Access Resource Center will provide compassion and hope to families. Pending review and approval in the coming weeks by the County Board, the center will have its grand opening early summer 2020.

The center, run by professional resource staff, will initially be operating seven days a week from noon until 4 a.m. 

One main purpose of the resource center is to inform county residents on ways to access care regardless of existing insurance and public or private funding of providers.

The call center, county systems and providers aim to have an integrated relationship that will establish mutually beneficial exchanges and offer visionary single-access-point care. Beth Lonergan, Director of Behavioral Health Services at University of Wisconsin Health, spoke on this in the press release.

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“UW Health is ready to be an active collaborator with Dane County on these important initiatives,” Lonergan said. “We recognize the need for coordinated access and have been working to ready our system. In the past year and a half we have added 35 behavioral health providers to respond to this acute community need.”

This initiative encouraged the creation of similar projects, including a potential new Universal Access Work Group comprised of public and private health care providers. The group will produce Memorandums of Understanding detailing the elements necessary to achieve better access and care delivery. 

Parisi is also asking the Department of Human Services to extend the county’s contract with National Alliance on Mental Illness Dane County and provide countywide crisis intervention training. Stubbs said improving mental health care is invaluable.

“Breaking down barriers and improving access to mental health care is fundamental to our community goals of equity, fairness, and looking out for one another,” Stubbs said in the press release.