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Chippewa Valley lawmakers clash on mental health funds

Eggs and Issues

Eau Claire (WQOW) - Two state legislators from the Chippewa Valley took jabs at each other during the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce's "Eggs and Issues" forum Friday morning.  The issue: funds to expand mental health treatment in northwestern Wisconsin.

Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a $15 million appropriation lawmakers approved earlier this year to add mental health treatment beds at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire. Instead, that money was directed to the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison.

An attempt to override the governor's veto fell two votes short in November.  At Friday morning's forum at UW-Eau Claire, State Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie) blamed Democrats for refusing to override the Governor's veto.

Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) said that money was needed at Mendota to complete the legislature's promise to close the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile center.  She then explained that a separate bill appropriating the $15 million for the Sacred Heart expansion is pending.  She warned that, if it never comes up for a vote, that will be the fault of the Republican leadership in Madison, who controls which bills get heard.

Bernier responded by saying, "this was truly bipartisan and should never have received a no vote."  She also chastised Emerson for failing to attend an informational meeting on the need for those extra beds.

Emerson replied, "Just because I didn't show up for your meeting does not mean I haven't studied the issue."

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