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Mental and Behavioral health at Children's Wisconsin

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

Children’s Wisconsin launched a $15 million challenge to support the health system’s $150 million commitment to address the mental and behavioral health needs of kids. An anonymous donor has pledged $15 million to match dollar-for-dollar donations to Children’s Wisconsin that are designated to support mental and behavioral health services.

The $15 million pledge is the largest single donation in Children’s Wisconsin history. The anonymous donor made their commitment hoping it would inspire others to give.

“The community recognizes that mental and behavioral health services must be improved, particularly for kids. We are incredibly thankful to all the donors who have stepped forward for this critical initiative,” said Peggy Troy, president and CEO of Children’s Wisconsin.

Meg Brzyski Nelson, chief development officer of Children’s Wisconsin, said it was truly remarkable to receive the largest-ever donation to the organization. “I hope it inspires others to keep stepping forward so we can continue to address this issue with impactful programs,” she said.

In 2019, Children’s Wisconsin announced seven initiatives to help address the growing mental and behavioral health crisis facing Wisconsin kids that would double the number of mental and behavioral health providers the system employs. The five-year plan was developed to detect mental and behavioral health needs sooner, improve access to services, and reduce the stigma around the illness.

“The need is great for increased mental and behavioral health access,” said Amy Herbst, vice president for mental and behavioral health at Children’s Wisconsin. “One in five kids in Wisconsin suffers from a mental health illness and almost half of those are not receiving treatment. This challenge gift will hopefully motivate the community to support these initiatives so kids can get the help they need.”

The initiatives are:

  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 training and stipends to master’s-level therapists to help them earn their licenses and join the workforce sooner.

  6. Urgent and emergent mental health
    Offering a dedicated, fully-staffed pediatric psychiatric assessment team and space in the Children’s Wisconsin Emergency Department.

  7. Partnerships with inpatient and residential care providers
    Improving inpatient and residential access and care through Children’s Wisconsin partnership with other health systems .

Children’s Wisconsin has estimated that $150 million would need to be invested to implement these plans, with a significant part of the funding supported through donations. Other funding would come through revenue from expanded programs, state and federal resources, contracts and partnerships, and direct investments by Children’s Wisconsin.

While $15 million is the largest single donation in the history of Children’s Wisconsin, it is the generous support of all donors that gives Wisconsin kids the best care in the state. Individuals can donate now.

Previous donations to support this work include $5 million from Kohl’s to support system-wide screening, school-based programming and mental health awareness efforts; $1 million from the Boldt Company to partially fund the Therapist Fellowship Program; and $1 million from Rexnord Foundation to support any of the seven initiatives.