Wisconsin National Guard called into mental health, disability care facilities due to staffing shortages | Local News

David Wahlberg | Wisconsin Magazine

The Wisconsin National Guard was first called in to assist employees of four state health facilities for people with disabilities or mental illness, a sign of just how acute the staffing shortages are at care centers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need for personnel resources across the country, and facilities operated by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services are no exception,” Debra Standridge, deputy secretary of the department, said in a statement.

Several states now offer incentives for people to return to work.

Nearly 60 National Guard volunteers have been dispatched to the Mendota Institute of Mental Health, the Winnebago Institute of Mental Health, the Southern Wisconsin Center and the Central Wisconsin Center, DHS spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said.

Mental health institutes are psychiatric hospitals that serve people with serious behavioral health conditions, including those who have been found not guilty of any criminal activity due to mental illness, according to the DHS. Care centers provide residential treatment for people with intellectual disabilities.

Standridge said that DHS cares about “some of the most vulnerable people in the state,” and that it was “important for us to be able to provide a safe level of staffing,” which is why DHS called on the guard for help.

Wisconsin National Guard spokesman Joe Trovato said this is the first time in history that the National Guard has been called in to assist in such facilities, but that troops have “helped in similar diverse ways” at other health care centers during the pandemic. They have served in healthcare facilities, senior living facilities, and isolation facilities.


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