Community Mental Health closing
Community Mental Health, located at 520 South Eastern Ave., Rhinelander, and with offices also in Crandon and Eagle River, will close its doors effective Dec. 31.
Erv Teichmiller, former director of Community Mental Health, cited a lack of funding as the reason for the closing. “State and federal funding for mental health services have diminished considerably,” he said.
Community Mental Health served adults and children who deal with a variety of issues such as depression, anxiety, behavioral problems and other challenges, including more severe issues such as schizophrenia. “Predominantly, they are people whose income is low. In order to provide that service, it was necessary to have funding from the Human Service Center,” Teichmiller said.
The Human Service Center, a government agency serving Oneida, Forest and Vilas counties, faces its own battles with limited funding, due to tight budgets and less money paid by Medicaid and Medicare. The agency contracted with Community Mental Health years ago to provide mental health care services for clients, and David Bast, executive director of the agency, explained that the Human Service Center was prepared to continue their contract with Community Mental Health. The Human Service Center, he said, is not responsible for the clinic’s closing.
“This was a decision to close by Community Mental Health,” Bast said.
In the meantime, clients that depended on Community Mental Health for treatment are wondering what to do next.
“Some of our clients came to us very concerned,” said James Skubal, who is on the board of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) Northern Lakes. NAMI promotes advocacy for the mentally ill and serves clients in Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties.
Those clients are part of a growing number of people across the country who are facing reduced access to mental health services due to budget cuts and diminished resources. “We’re living in a society where that is one area we don’t need cuts in,” said Skubal.
Bast explained that the Human Service Center has asked Community Mental Health to let them know about open client cases so that the Human Service Center can refer these people to the correct agencies. Those in need of treatment for mental health issues may call the Human Service Center at (715) 369-2215. That organization can help clients obtain services that are available on a sliding fee scale.
Although Community Mental Health is closing, Kids in Need, a program associated with Community Mental Health, and which serves troubled youngsters, will continue to function, according to Teichmiller. He added that Community House, a residential facility for the chronically mentally ill, which is also associated with Community Mental Health, will also continue to function.
The NAMI support group meets the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon, and general meetings are held the fourth Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the community center room at the Goodwill store in Rhinelander. For more information, log on to namiwisconsin.org.