Sen. James Spends Mental Health Day in Eau Claire

Sen. James Spends Mental Health Day in Eau Claire

ABOVE PHOTO: Above: Sen. Jesse James with employees of Marriage and Family Health Therapists in Eau Claire.

State Senator Jesse James spent time in the Eau Claire area yesterday highlighting May Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Meeting with our mental health professionals and first responders is extremely helpful to us in the Legislature. These men and women are the boots on the ground and keep us going…”

-Senator James

James, Chair of the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, and Children and Families, made a point to stop at several locations to talk to local employees about mental health policy and awareness. The senator met with the communications team at the Eau Claire Police Department, local marriage and family therapists, and residents at a sober living house in central Eau Claire.

“Meeting with our mental health professionals and first responders is extremely helpful to us in the Legislature. These men and women are the boots on the ground and keep us going,” said James. “We were able to speak not only about what we can be doing to help improve our systems, but all the great things we have accomplished this year when it comes to mental health in our schools, innovative ways to help police with mental health calls, funding for future mental health centers, and more.”

Above: Sen. Jesse James tests out the Next Gen 911 video calling feature.

Starting at the Eau Claire Communications Center, James spoke to dispatchers about new technology and mental health struggles in their profession. Greg Rosno, the center’s manager, shared that as many as 1 in 7 dispatchers experience suicidal ideation due to the traumatic nature of the job. “We will never see artificial intelligence take over 911 calls; this speaks volumes to what we are asking dispatchers to do,” Rosno shared.

Jesse and staff discussed state funding for Next Gen 911, which will help to update 911 technology across the state. Sen. James was able to test this new feature, which allowed him to not only text, but video call with the dispatch center. Sen. James asked if being able to not only hear, but see emergency events would impact dispatchers’ mental health, and staff agreed that it already had. “We need to understand what our dispatchers carry with them and do more to make sure that they are given the resources they need,” commented James.

James speaks with Eau Claire Communications staff, including manager Greg Rosno.

James also visited Marriage and Family Health Therapists, where they discussed mental health and day treatment for teens, as well as their role in the community. “We passed legislation this session to make it a smoother transition for our marriage and family therapists to work in our schools,” said Sen. James. “We need to keep removing barriers in our state to make sure that we are filling the need for mental health providers, especially when it comes to our kids.”

Finally, James met with residents at Eau Claire Sober Living, an organization started by Michelle Markquart to provide a safe space to live for women in recovery. The senator heard stories from residents about how much their lives and relationships had changed by being able to stay sober and live in the community.  

Sarah, a house graduate and great-grandmother, achieved sobriety at age 64 after doing drugs since her teen years, including being addicted to meth for 25 years. “I used to have meth on my hands and touch my eyes. They would get so infected that I had to have them sewn shut to heal multiple times,” Sarah shared with Sen. James. A recent eye surgery has allowed Sarah to see well for the first time in 15 years, and she recently became approved to become a peer counselor. “I’m a miracle,” Sarah shared. “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” Sen. James toured the house and discussed the practical skills the women learn, as well as various physical and mental therapies they utilize.

“As someone whose life has been greatly impacted by almost 27 years of sobriety, it was amazing to hear from these women. We need more of this in our area. People are struggling with all kinds of addictions and burdens in the Chippewa Valley. We need to talk about these issues and support our local programs like these that are working,” Senator James concluded.

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