EC mental health professionals await specifics on Walker's new funding proposal

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EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - Mental health programs could soon see a major increase in funding after the governor gives his new budget proposal.

The money put aside for mental health would go to treatment programs and counseling, but with changes possible and decisions left to be made, where that money goes and who benefits still remains to be seen.

Eau Claire psychologist Brian Stress said with all the strides made in mental health treatment, for many, taking the first step is still a difficult one.

"I've met people in this community who have been significantly depressed for 40 years. That could have been addressed within the first six months and change their life dramatically, but they thought that significant depression is just part of life and you just suck it up and deal with it," Stress said.

He said he hopes the nearly $28.9 million in new funding for mental health programs proposed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) will make a positive change.

"(Mental illness has) a ripple effect. It affects everybody around them. So hopefully resources allocated for mental health treatment not only assists that person in feeling better, and functioning better, but it also can benefit the economy," Stress said.

Eau Claire County Human Services director Roy Sargeant said he was pleased to see some of the budget going to children's mental health programs and that Walker acknowledges the problem.

"It's underfunded and much needed, and we really need to improve it. So I think this is a good start to see some new dollars that are going to be sent in that direction," Sargeant said.

"It's not just about the money. It's also about raising awareness of the importance of treating mental illness and serving people who have mental illness."

Walker has not said which areas will get what funding. He's expected to deliver the proposal to law makers on Feb. 20.