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Letter from Rep. Petryk: Legislation to help those suffering from mental illness

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News Ellsworth,Wisconsin 54011
Pierce County Herald
Letter from Rep. Petryk: Legislation to help those suffering from mental illness
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Last week, the Assembly passed several pieces of legislation that were a part of the Speaker’s Taskforce on Mental Health legislative package. Proudly, I was one of the lead sponsors on one of these bills, Assembly Bill 457, which will help to fund Treatment and Diversion (TAD) programs around the state. 


As many of you know, mental health issues are very prevalent with 1 out of 4 adults in this country suffering from a mental illness. Of those suffering from this debilitating illness, 56 percent of our state’s prisoners suffer from a mental illness. Unfortunately, many people with mental illness go untreated which can lead to severe mental health episodes, teenage pregnancy, problems in a marriage, failure in school, and many more negative effects. 

These facts led the Speaker of the Assembly to form a Speaker’s Taskforce on Mental Health which was led by Representative Severson, an emergency room physician. The taskforce had the goals to eliminate barriers to treatment, improve the coordination of care, increase awareness, identifying and promoting best practices for addressing the link between mental illness and substance abuse, and reduce recidivism. 

From their five public hearings held around the state, the taskforce members crafted a detailed report that included bill proposals. The following are highlights of the legislation which passed the Assembly with overwhelming bi-partisan support. 

Mental Health TAD (Assembly Bill 457; Authors Rep. Tittl and Petryk): TAD offers alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. This legislation would provide additional funding to expand TAD programs to include offenders with mental illness so that they can receive the necessary treatment and stay out of prison.

Child Psychiatry Access Line (Assembly Bill 452; Authors Rep. Steineke and Krug): For children suffering from mental health issues, pediatric primary care doctors are their main provider. These physicians have requested assistance from pediatric psychiatrists however; many areas of the state lack a specialist in pediatric psychiatry. This legislation, modeled after Massachusetts’ and Minnesota’s efforts, would help to provide the desired expertise for children. 

Mental Health Care Coordination (Assembly Bill 453; Authors Rep. Severson and Pasch): This legislation would modify Wisconsin’s current use and disclosure laws to be more in-line with HIPPA regulations. This bill will allow for primary care doctors and mental health providers to work closely together to provide the best course of treatment for the patient. 

Also passed was Assembly Bills 488 relating to three-party petition reform; Assembly Bill 454 relating to primary care and psychiatry shortages grant program; and Assembly Bill 459 relating to individualized placement and support. 

This legislative package addresses a wide variety of issues that have plagued those who suffer from mental health issues and providers. The legislation passed will have a positive impact on individuals and their families that suffer from mental illness. I am proud to have supported each of these bills and to have played a prominent role in Assembly Bill 457. 

Veteran Identifier Available

Finally, after 2 years of work, veterans will finally be able to indicate their veteran status on their state driver’s license or ID card. Since I was first elected, I worked successfully to pass this legislation and it is finally becoming a reality. 

Starting December 2, 2013, veterans will be able to voluntarily request through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), a veteran identifier on their driver’s license or ID card. To have this identifier placed on your driver’s license or ID, the veteran must present proof of their veteran status. Then the DOT will place the word “VETERAN” in red lettering on the front of the driver’s license or ID card. 

As you know, many organizations and businesses offer benefits or discounts to our veterans as a way to thank them for their selfless service. By having this identifier on their driver’s license or ID card, the veteran can quickly identify him or herself to these businesses and organizations without having to carry with them personal and sensitive information. 

If you have questions regarding application for the identifier prior to visiting your local Department of Motor Vehicle location, please  Please first review the “VetExpress” instructional video which will walk you through the application process. Also, any veteran may submit Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) form 2241(Eligibility Application – For WisDOT Veteran Identifier) along with supporting documentation to the DVA via fax at 1-888-237-9926 or by mail, P.O. Box 7843, Madison, WI 53707-7843.

My personal thanks to the Governor for passing this legislation which I authored, to the DOT for their support and guidance, and of course to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs for the continued work they do on behalf of our state’s veterans.   

Not a Day in my Life I Don’t Think About It

The Chippewa Herald • November 11, 2013 • by Ross Evavold

Steve Gilbertson was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and since as he said "that's where the action was," he saw plenty of combat. 

"I still hear it and smell it," Gilbertson told a packed house of close to a couple hundred people at a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War Sunday afternoon at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in Chippewa Falls.

"There's not a day in my life I don't think about it," said Gilbertson, who saw two roommates killed in Vietnam. "I can't help but think how lucky I am to be here.

Gilbertson and state Rep. Warren Petryk (R-Eleva) spoke at the event, which was highlighted by the unveiling of a plaque honoring the 165,400 men and women from Wisconsin who served in Vietnam. The plaque will remain on display at the veterans' home.

"Veterans Day is an emotional day for us," Gilbertson said.

Petryk shared a story from Operation Dustoff in the state capitol rotunda Friday, and stories from a book, "Stories From Soldier's Hearts." Petryk, who also led the group in the singing of the national anthem and "God Bless America," is chairman of the state Assembly Veterans Committee.

"I can think of no honor in my life that I am more privileged to serve in," he said.  

Petryk said that George Banda, a Silver Star recipient from the Vietnam War, had the crowd spellbound with his powerful address.

This medic told the story of seeing his best friend, from Wisconsin, wounded. And as he knew his friend was not going to make it out of there," Petryk said, quoting Banda as saying: "I lied to him and I lied to me. I said, 'Look me in the eyes. We're going to take that ride, and see that new baby' that he was never able to see.  

Dennis Beattie of Black River Falls, state senior vice commandant, honored the oldest and youngest Marines on hand following the program. Larry Godlewski, 90, and Bruce Fredrickson, 58, were recognized, and Buster Heinle was a few minutes later discovered to be 93. An even older veteran, Irene Stoneberg, was also in attendance. She enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, and served through the end of World War II. As a surgical nurse she saw some combat, working with amputees from the siege of Bastogne, as part of the larger Battle of the Bulge.  Stoneberg, 95, now lives at the veterans center.

"I go there every week and I get to know the veterans," said John Stoneberg, who said the facility was a good fit for his mother. "It was very nice to see there was a full house.

Bill Stephens was in the second row for the program, sitting in a wheelchair because he's had both legs amputated.

"I loved it," he said of the program. When asked if, like Gilbertson, he thinks of Vietnam often, Stephens didn't waste any time.

"Every day," said the man who grew up in Marshfield and served in the Army from 1963-83. "I lost a lot of friends.

And what does he think about during those times?

"The people, and how they died for no reason," Stephens said. "It was just chaos over there, that's what it was. They were just trying to make a go of it.

Stephens, who now resides at the veterans home, said the stories were true of how badly Vietnam vets were treated. He recalls a day when he was across from the federal building in Eau Claire.

"There were a bunch of kids protesting the Vietnam war, and one of them pulled my shirt where the ribbons were and literally pulled my shirt off," he said.

Fred Crosby of Chippewa Falls served in the early 1970s as a radio operator on a helicopter station. He recalls being in San Diego when someone started hollering and then throwing something at him.

That's why Gilbertson began the program by talking about how we're still at war.

"We have soldiers, airmen and Marines over there today doing the same thing. We can't forget what it was like," he said. "We may not be able to thank them enough, but we have to support them.

At the veterans home on Sunday, there was an entire room full of support.

In-District Office Hours  

I will be holding in-district office hours on the following Mondays: November 4th, November 18th, and December 2nd, 2013. The goal of these office hours is to welcome constituents from the 93rd Assembly District to come and speak directly to me on issues of importance to you. 

The following are the times and locations for office hours. Individual constituent meeting times will be based on a first come first serve basis as time allows:

November 18, 2013

Pierce/ Pepin Cooperative: W7725 US Hwy 10

9:00-10:00 a.m. Ellsworth, WI 54011

Prescott: Prescott City Hall – Council Chambers

11:00-12:00 p.m. 

800 Borner St

Prescott, WI 54021

December 2, 2013

Pleasant Valley Pleasant Valley Town Hall

9:00-10:00 a.m. S10414 County Road I

Eleva, WI 54701

Downsville: Downsville Town Hall

11:00-12:00 p.m. 

E4583 County Road C

Menomonie, WI 54735

Plum City: Senior Center

1:00-2:00 p.m. 501 Main St

Plum City, WI 54761

Spring Valley: Spring Valley Village Hall

3:00-4:00 p.m. E121 South 2nd Street

Spring Valley, WI 54767

Upcoming Events in the 93rd Assembly District

Pepin County Shooting Range Hours Monday through Friday November 18-22; 8-5:00 p.m. Closed during gun deer season

Bake & Craft Sale for the Pepin County Humane Society Saturday, November 16th, 8-4:00 p.m.

Ken & Peggy Manor Residence, Cedar Brook Estates (2 Miles East of Durand on Hwy. 85)

Arkansaw Creek Park Christmas Lighting Friday, November 29th, 6:00 p.m.