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Shanna Sullivan, LCSW, clinical supervisor, Therapist Fellowship Program Children's Wisconsin mental and behavioral health $15 million donation Reiman Foundation

$15 million challenge to support mental health initiatives at Children’s Wisconsin is met

Reiman Foundation unveiled as the anonymous donor who sparked the challenge; Fundraising continues to support $150 million vision to improve the mental and behavioral health of Wisconsin’s kids

Children’s Wisconsin is proud to share that its largest single donation in its history, a $15 million dollar-for-dollar challenge from the Reiman Foundation, has been met. The $30 million raised supports Children’s Wisconsin $150 million, five-year vision to address the growing mental and behavioral health crisis facing Wisconsin kids.

“It is often said that there is no true health without mental health,” said Peggy Troy, CEO, Children’s Wisconsin. “If Wisconsin’s kids are to be the healthiest in the nation, we must elevate the reach and impact of mental and behavioral health services both within our system and in our communities. The generosity of the Reiman Foundation and those who met their challenge has been critical in accelerating our work and is helping to inspire more donors to support our full vision. We made great progress in 2020, but more must be done to meet the needs of our kids.”

In November of 2019, Children’s Wisconsin announced a comprehensive $150 million, five-year system wide investment to address the growing mental and behavioral health crisis facing Wisconsin’s kids. Just two months later, the Reiman Foundation anonymously issued their dollar-for-dollar matching pledge. More than 3,000 individuals helped meet the $15 million challenge, with more than 60 individuals donating more than $1,000, and seven making donations of $1 million or more.

“We are so grateful to the Reiman Foundation for inspiring such generosity from the community,” said Meg Brzyski Nelson, president, Children’s Wisconsin Foundation. “A matching challenge motivates new and existing donors to make their donation go even further to benefit the kids and families of Wisconsin and beyond.”

Donors who generously committed $1 million or more to the effort includes Ladish Company Foundation, United Health Foundation, Mary and Ted Kellner, Dan and Karen Buehrle, Rexnord Foundation, Jerry and Becky Jendusa and family, and Sue and Curt Culver. Children’s Wisconsin is also grateful to Kohl’s Corporation and The Boldt Company for their generous commitments in 2019 to help Children’s Wisconsin address Wisconsin’s mental health crisis.

Progress made in 2020 to improve mental and behavioral health

As part of its comprehensive investment, Children’s Wisconsin continues to advance seven key initiatives designed to detect needs sooner, improve access to services and reduce the stigma around the illness.

1) Universal screening for mental health

Depression screening has been integrated into standard practices at all Children’s Wisconsin primary care offices, with nearly 97 percent of all eligible kids age 12 and older screened. Positive screens were then referred for follow-up care. Mental health screening at routine appointments is crucial to identifying issues before they become a crisis. Children’s Wisconsin is making mental health screening a consistent part of every interaction throughout the health system, regardless of the reason for the visit

2) Early childhood mental health

Last year, Children’s Wisconsin began to specifically coordinate the work of eight early childhood mental health specialists across the state and multiple partnerships such as those with Froedtert’s Maternal Fetal Medicine program, Children’s Wisconsin Home Visiting, Healthy Infant Court, and the Children’s Wisconsin NICU. Mental and behavioral health challenges and conditions are difficult to diagnose in the youngest kids and therefore often go untreated. The key to reaching more kids at an early age requires a dedicated system to coordinate the work of various specialists and programs who are working with parents to help nurture positive, healthy relationships with their children even before they are born.

3) School-based mental and behavioral health

Children’s Wisconsin is expanding school-based mental health programs throughout Wisconsin, with the goal to double its presence by 2024. By the end of last year, Children’s Wisconsin was working with teachers and staff at more than 50 schools to support kids’ healthy development in an educational setting. This approach increases access to early intervention by treating kids quickly in a comfortable, accessible, familiar setting — places that families already know and trust.

4) Integrated mental and behavioral health

The journey to achieving mental and behavioral health often starts in the doctor’s office. In 2020, Children’s Wisconsin developed a plan to integrate mental and behavioral health into its pediatric and specialty care models, requiring a thorough assessment of physical space needs, provider training, defining standards of care from the front desk to physicians, among other considerations.

5) Therapist fellowship program

In order to grow a workforce dedicated to mental and behavioral health, Children’s Wisconsin launched a dedicated fellowship program to help more therapists become fully licensed faster. Through this program, Children’s Wisconsin supports post-graduate qualified therapists with pay and benefits as they complete their 3,000 hours of clinical training. While licensure typically takes upwards of five years to complete, therapists in the fellowship program typically get their licenses in less than two years. Children’s Wisconsin has employed 16 post-graduate qualified treatment trainees on a full-time basis, with five having already completed the program. Children’s Wisconsin plans to welcome seven new therapists into the fellowship program in 2021.

6) Urgent and emergent mental health care

For kids in crisis, the Children’s Wisconsin Emergency Department is now equipped with a 24/7 crisis response and treatment team. In addition to providing de-escalation and other interventional measures, the crisis response team provides post-discharge care for as long as needed, assisting families in establishing continued care.

7) Partnerships with inpatient and residential care providers

Children’s Wisconsin is working closely with other health systems to improve access, outcomes and patient and family experience while striving to reduce the cost of care. This includes partnering with providers such as Rogers Behavioral Health to create a more seamless care delivery experience for kids needing a higher level of care; continuing to nurture the reach and impact of Catapla Health, a partnership between Ascension Wisconsin, ThedaCare and Children’s Wisconsin; and partnering with Milwaukee County, Advocate Aurora Health, Froedtert Health and Ascension Wisconsin to develop a new psychiatric emergency department in Milwaukee.

“For far too long, gaining access to mental and behavioral health services has been an uphill climb for many families,” said Amy Herbst, vice president, Mental and Behavioral Health, Children’s Wisconsin. “With more than 2 million touch points with kids every year across the state, we have the ability to integrate mental and behavioral health into nearly everything we do. Along the way, both within our own system and in partnership with others, we are reaching more kids more quickly with the care they need. While much work remains, the community’s response, the engagement of our team and the collaboration of our partners leaves us hopeful that brighter days are ahead for more kids and families.”

Shine Through: An evening to inspire

To inspire others to join Children’s Wisconsin and its supporters in helping create solutions for mental and behavioral health support, interested community members are invited to participate in a virtual event: “Shine Through: An Evening to Inspire.” Planned for Wednesday, April 28, from 6:30 – 8 p.m., participants will learn more about how Children’s Wisconsin is investing in mental and behavioral health, better understand how kids are facing this growing crisis and how the community can continue to come together to help. To learn more, visit