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New Mental Health Hospital In West Allis To Replace Some Care By Milwaukee County

Chuck Quirmbach
Granite Hills CEO Jennifer Bergersen stands outside the new facility in West Allis.

A major change in behavioral health care in the Milwaukee region moved ahead on September 16 after a grand opening ceremony at Granite Hills Hospital in West Allis.

Milwaukee County is turning over more of its inpatient treatment of people with acute mental health conditions to the hospital, which is owned by the large Pennsylvania-based company Universal Health Services.

At first, Granite Hills will have about a dozen patients. Eventually, the capacity will go up to 120 patients.

Granite Hills CEO Jennifer Bergersen told WUWM that the new site offers more ways to help people. "For example, when you come into the facility, you'll notice in the inpatient units that we have an incredible line-of-sight to observe patients. We have indoor and outdoor courtyard areas for people to heal and get exercise. We're going to have an incredible amount of staff in order to complement all the therapeutic needs of our patients," she said.

Chuck Quirmbach
The indoor exercise area at Granite Hills Hospital.

Bergersen declined to comment on specific goals for staff-to-patient ratios. "We have to assess individuals. And, when people come to our setting, we have to identify what's the best environment that's going to support their care and healing. So, a staff pattern or complement most likely will change, depending on the need the patient presents to us," she noted.

For more than 20 years, Bergersen worked at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Facility in Wauwatosa. She said some former county employees have been hired to work at Granite Hills and others are interested in coming over. Bergersen said she's working "really hard" with administrators at the county on a good transition plan for employees switching to the West Allis site.

Chuck Quirmbach
One of the inpatient rooms at Granite Hills Hospital.

Bergersen said Granite Hills will use several different metrics to assess its work, including satisfaction, review of incidents, and review of treatment outcomes.

She said she wants the new behavioral care hospital to be a place where "individuals felt heard, listened to, and that they've been taken care of."

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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