Parisi Announces County Budget Proposal Focused on Mental Health, Addiction Recovery

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Dane County Executive Joe Parisi released his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year last week, with a slew of addiction recovery and mental health outreach strategies. The budget includes an additional $865,000 to address such issues on top of Dane County’s annual spending around $63.5 million. 

Introduced in full on Oct. 1, Parisi’s proposed operating budget is nearing $592 million, with new initiatives spanning affordable housing, mental health resources, criminal justice, immigration assistance, and renewable energy. Most sweeping, however, is the additional funding and programs proposed to mitigate growing substance abuse and mental health crises in the state. 

A new $500,000 grant program, named after Emergency Management Director Charles Tubbs’ late son, is among the mental health and recovery initiatives totaling $63.5 million in community services support. The C.J. Tubbs Fund for Hope, Healing and Recovery aims to support community-based intervention and recovery services, and will be used to award grants to “those in the best position to provide direct assistance to those suffering,” according to a press release from the County Executive’s Office. 

“Dane County is committed to creating better access to mental health and addiction recovery services, and the actions proposed in my 2020 budget take the steps we need as a community to reach even more of our friends and neighbors who are struggling with mental illness and addiction,” Parisi said in the press release.

Parisi also proposed the creation of the End Deaths by Despair Coalition to help mitigate rising suicide rates and illicit drug or alcohol-related deaths. Joining forces with Safe Communities and Dane County partners in healthcare, education, and human services, the groups aim to generate a suicide and overdose prevention plan by assessing the effectiveness of previous initiatives and fostering dialogue among the community. 

Further funding of the recovery-coach model is also included, as current programs — notably ED2Recovery and Jail2Recovery — have been met with success. Thus, Parisi is also hoping to conduct a study on the potential effectiveness of a Mental Health Court, focused on “treatment and rehabilitation,” according to the press release. Such a measure would build upon existing diversion programs such as Community Restorative Court

Additional funding for the Building Bridges program in local schools and a pilot project for older folks not eligible under Medicare are also incorporated into the budget. 

“Our investments in mental health and addiction recovery services build upon successes and explore new opportunities to make a substantive difference for the individuals and families that call Dane County home,” Parisi said.  

The public hearing for the 2020 budget will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16, at the City County Building.

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