Gov. Evers’ 2021-23 budget to include $150M for mental health services

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers’ 2021-23 biennial budget will include more than $150 million in funding for mental health services.

Evers made the announcement Wednesday morning. The funding would help improve access to care, support student mental health services, address substance use disorders, and more.

“Mental and behavioral healthcare is healthcare. Period. From our kids to our farmers, to veterans and those working to overcome substance use disorders, mental health support must be a priority for the health, safety, and well-being of our state,” Evers said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only further exacerbated the need for and underscored the urgency of making sure we have affordable, accessible services available to folks when they need it most, and that’s why it’s a top priority in our budget.”

Evers’ budget also includes a proposal to expand BadgerCare to provide health insurance for tens of thousands of uninsured Wisconsinites. The effort would bring an estimated $634 million in state tax dollar savings, according to a news release.

The budget proposal includes a plan to reshape crisis intervention and emergency detention practices by supporting preventative services, funding regional crisis centers and creating alternatives to emergency detention like rapid response mental health teams.

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said Evers’ investment in mental health services addresses the “crucial need to invest in school and community-based mental and behavior health programming.”

In a statement, she said: “Prior to the pandemic, at least one in five students faced a mental health issue, and nearly 60% of high schoolers self-reported significant mental health needs. The needs of students are compounded by COVID-19, transitioning to virtual learning, being away from friends and family, and other stressors. This funding is critical to expanding and building the capacity of school staff to provide mental health services.”

The state’s Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Mark Kolar also expressed thanks to the governor on Wednesday, saying his budget will expand the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program to support more veterans who may have a mental health condition or substance use disorder. It will also invest ini a suicide prevention and awareness campaigns targeted at traditionally underserved veteran populations.

“I thank Governor Evers for his continued commitment to providing critical services such as mental health support for veterans,” WDVA Secretary Mary Kolar said in a statement. “By developing trusting relationships with at-risk veterans, we’ve been able to help veterans successfully complete treatment programs and access critical medical services, as well as provide the tools veterans need to be successful.”

For a more detailed list of mental health initiatives and programs included in Evers’ proposed budget, click here.