Milwaukee County First is again calling for some accountability at Milwaukee County's Behavioral Health Division. In fact, they are again calling on Scott Walker to finally fire his appointee that "runs" the division. While there are many frontline workers, project managers and professionals doing great work at BHD, the upper levels of management are doing them no favors. Back in November, after yet another scandal involving BHD's upper management, I commented that someone must own the incompetence related to that division. I also said that if Scott Walker didn't take some kind of substantive action that he ultimately would have to take ownership of it. Having seen no signs to suggest otherwise, it appears that Walker is perfectly content with the situation. As far as I am concerned, Scott Walker now owns the incompetence at BHD.
Where do you even begin talking about all of the terrible things happening at BHD on Walker's watch?
- In 2006 you have starvation issues and overdoses that brought serious warnings from State and Federal regulators.
- In 2007 you have a 50% increase in assaults on staff.
- In 2008 and 2009, the privatized security force at BHD went way over budget (so much for privatization being a silver bullet).
- In late 2009 you have the Walker appointee at BHD failing to do timely due diligence and throwing the entire county's budget into near chaos.
- Now you have sexual assaults at the Mental Health Complex for which you have been cited and now risk losing $60 million in federal funding?
Walker can be held accountable for this terrible track record because he has chosen not to hold anyone accountable himself. On the other hand, maybe Walker isn't holding the appropriate person accountable because he is that person. It seems that a very good case can be made for how his politically driven budgetary policies have helped foster the tragic conditions that we have witnessed at BHD. Consider some of the following data taken directly from the 2003 and 2010 proposed budgets:
- Scott Walker has repeatedly cut staff at BHD. In 2001 there were 1,053.1 funded position equivalents. In 2008 that number went down to 890.9 and in his 2010 proposed budget he wanted to put it all the way down to 746.7.
- Cutting positions like this may play well to his political base, but it is a huge mistake to assume that cutting positions always makes fiscal sense. For example, in 2001 overtime costs stood at $2,807,027 (or the equivalent of 77.5 positions). After all of these years of drastically cutting staff at BHD, actual overtime in 2008 shot up to $4,719,383 (or the equivalent of 87 positions).
- One might assume that Walker's constant cuts and pushes to privatize at BHD equals less spending. That assumption would be completely wrong. In the 2002 adopted budget, BHD was slotted to have $136,850,224 in expenditures. In the 2009 adopted budget, that number jumped up to $187,598,123.
Not only should Scott Walker own the tragic problems that have been happening at BHD on his watch, but he should also have to fully answer for how his politically motivated policies have helped foster the complete breakdown in the first place.