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updated: 4/21/2014 9:43 AM

Noncriminal patients moved from Wisconsin prison

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Associated Press

MADISON -- Civil psychiatric patients have been discharged from a state-run mental health institute in Madison to free space for additional criminal patients, drawing criticism from law enforcement officials.

Adult male patients from the civil secure treatment unit at Mendota Mental Health Institute were discharged this month and are receiving treatment in the community, according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokeswoman Jennifer Miller.

The discharges were planned with county mental health officials, Miller wrote in an email to the State Journal (http://bit.ly/REJx4S ) "who placed the patients in treatment settings consistent with their individual needs."

Miller said the state is consolidating civil patients at Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh. Criminal patients will go to Mendota. Geriatric civil patients will still be seen at Mendota.

Madison interim police Chief Randy Gaber said that means a three-hour roundtrip to Oshkosh for his officers to transport a person in need of emergency civil commitment.

The patients also must be medically cleared before they're taken to a psychiatric facility and that can take hours on its own, Gaber said.

"The reality is that some of these will take an entire shift," Gaber said.

That puts a strain on officers in Madison, he said, but can have an even greater impact on smaller departments.

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