Sanfelippo criticizes County Board for lack of action with Mental Health Complex

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo has issued an open letter to the residents of Milwaukee County, calling for changes to Milwaukee County's Mental Health Complex.

In his letter, Sanfelippo says the federally mandated watchdog group Disability Rights Wisconsin (DRW) has sent a letter to the State’s Department of Health Services requesting the department suspend or terminate Milwaukee County’s license to operate its psychiatric hospital.

Sanfelippo says: "The County Board reacted to this very serious and unprecedented request by doing absolutely nothing."

In early December, Milwaukee County's District Attorney announced the launch of a John Doe investigation into the death of 25-year-old Brandon Johnson. Johnson is one of six individuals who have died at Milwaukee County's Mental Health Complex this year. 

John Doe proceedings are typically secret, but this one is public.

On October 6th, Johnson died of a pulmonary embolism while a patient at the Mental Health Complex. 

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke called the death suspicious, but the DA hasn't seen enough evidence to charge anyone in connection with Johnson's death. This public John Doe hearing could be the tipping point in this case.

According to the family, Johnson's autopsy report showed he had fractures in his neck and back. Those injuries led to blood clots in his legs which made their way to his lungs and killed him.

The John Doe hearing is scheduled for March 4th through March 7th. 

In his letter, Sanfelippo says: "As all of these problems are revealed, the County Board fails to honor its oversight responsibility for these publicly funded services by continuing to turn a blind-eye toward the patients trapped within this system, opting instead to focus on events in an airplane hangar, issues solely under the control of the City, or when Santa Claus will be appearing at Kosciuszko Park."

Sanfelippo said in his letter "for the County Board to sit back and do absolutely nothing is deplorable." Sanfelippo argues the only choice is to have the state take over where the County Board has failed.

"I join DRW in calling on Secretary Smith to step-in and to take decisive action that will protect and improve the lives of these individuals with mental illness, who rely on safe and effective programs and services to maintain their health and their ability to be contributing members of our community," Sanfelippo said.