U.S. Bishops Express Ongoing Concerns with HHS Mandate; Seek Solutions
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently provided further clarification on how those seeking a conscientious exemption from providing mandated no-cost coverage for contraceptives services may be afforded accommodation. In a written statement, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) President Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said the proposal "shows some movement by the Administration but falls short of addressing U.S. bishops' concerns."
Cardinal Dolan listed three key areas of concern: "the narrow understanding of a religious ministry; compelling church ministries to fund and facilitate services such as contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization that violate Catholic teaching; and disregard of the conscience rights of for-profit business owners." He concluded, "We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions-we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks. Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration's invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all. At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary."
Governor and Assembly Announce Mental Health Initiatives
Governor Walker has announced he will be devoting $28.9 million in mental health services as part of his proposed biennial budget. The Governor stressed the importance of eliminating the stigma of mental illness, the cost of allowing mental illness to go untreated, and emphasized the need for additional mental health supports at the local level, especially for children.
The proposal includes $3.8 million for coordinated service teams, $10.2 million in comprehensive community services, $1.3 million for peer-run respite centers, $535,000 for children's mental health services and for the creation of the Office of Children's Mental Health, $524,000 for in-home children's counseling, and $12.6 million for forensic treatment units at the Mendota Mental Health facility. The proposal will also attract additional federal funds to Wisconsin.
In related news, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) announced the formation of a Task Force on Mental Health, an 11-member committee charged with recommending improvements in mental health treatment. Representative Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie), an emergency room physician, will chair the task force, and Representative Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood), a mental health nurse and former nursing professor, will serve as vice-chair.
The task force will make recommendations to eliminate barriers to treatment; promote early and voluntary intervention for those in need of services; improve coordination of care; reduce the stigma that often accompanies mental health diagnoses; promote best practices for addressing the link between mental illness and substance abuse; and address mental illness in the prison population. The committee will hold its first meeting on February 27, 2013.
Governor's Budget Address
Governor Walker will give his budget address on Wednesday, February 20, at 7 pm.
USCCB Launches Immigration Postcard Campaign
As federal lawmakers begin to work on immigration reform, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging Catholics to contact their Members of Congress in support of just and compassionate legislation. Readers are asked to go to the USCCB's Justice for Immigrants campaign website to send an electronic postcard. To learn more about Catholic teaching on immigration, see the pastoral letter (Spanish version) and Question and Answer resource (Spanish version) on immigration reform issued by the bishops of Wisconsin in December 2011.
Registration Begins for Catholics at the Capitol
The registration form is now available for Catholics at the Capitol to be held on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. The keynote speaker will be the Most Reverend Peter F. Christensen.
Registration is $37 per person and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Full-time students can register for $12. The registration deadline is April 1, 2013. Registration materials are available on our website: www.wisconsincatholic.org.
New Bills of Interest
SB-4. Minimum Wage (Wirch) Increases state minimum wage, indexes it to cost-of-living increases, and permits the enactment of local living wage ordinances.