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Children’s Wisconsin IDs $150M need for growing mental, behavioral health crisis facing kids

MILWAUKEE — Children’s Wisconsin announced on Tuesday, Nov. 19 that it has identified seven initiatives that it could implement in the next five years to help address the growing mental and behavioral health crisis facing Wisconsin kids. The initiatives would need an estimated $150 million to be fully realized.

The initiatives identified by Children’s are designed to detect mental and behavioral health needs sooner, improve access to services, and reduce the stigma around the illness. They include:

  1. Universal screening for mental health. Expanding screening for depression and anxiety throughout the health system, regardless of the reason for the visit.
  2. Early childhood mental health. Creating a hub to anchor and coordinate the work of multiple specialists and programs providing early childhood mental health.
  3. School-based mental and behavioral health. Expanding school-based programs throughout Wisconsin.
  4. Integrated mental and behavioral health. Offering integrated mental and behavioral health services in the primary care offices and specialty clinics.
  5. Therapist fellowship program. Providing a stipend to master’s-level therapists to decrease the amount of time to earn their license.
  6. Urgent and emergent mental health. Offering a dedicated, fully-staffed pediatric psychiatric assessment team and space in the Children’s emergency department.
  7. Partnerships with inpatient and residential care providers. Improving inpatient residential access and service through Children’s support of other health systems.

Peggy Troy, president and CEO of Children’s said in the news release, “Mental health is something we as a community must address – without it, we are not fulfilling our commitment to improve the health of Wisconsin’s kids.”

Fundraising has already begun

A news release says donors have already stepped forward to support some of the initiatives. Those donations include:

  • $5 million from Kohl’s, previously announced in March, which supports system-wide screening, school-based programs and overall mental health awareness efforts.
  • $1 million from Rexnord Foundation, generously provided to be used in any of the seven tactics.
  • $1 million from Boldt Corporation, used to partially fund the Therapist Fellowship Program. The first cohort of therapists started this fall.

In addition to philanthropic support, other funding sources will be necessary to complete the $150 million plan. Funds will also need to come from patient revenue from expanded programs, state and federal resources, contracts and partnerships, and direct investments by Children’s.

The need is great

The need for mental health services is increasing, as reported by the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health. In the group’s 2017 annual report, kids and teens in Wisconsin are hospitalized for a mental health condition at more than four times the national rate. At the same time, Wisconsin’s youth suicide rate increased more than the national rate from 2015 to 2016, and remains significantly higher than most of the United States.

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