La Crosse County Better Together

Advancing Behavioral Health Initiative Phase II: Reducing the percentage of La Crosse County youth at risk for depression

Full Project Name:Better TogetherPrimary Community Organization:La Crosse Medical Health Science ConsortiumPrimary Academic Partner:Michelle Broaddus, PhD, Psychiatry and Behavioral MedicineAward Amount:$1,000,000
Award Date
Project Duration:60 months

Project Description Narrative:

Advancing Behavioral Health Initiative Phase II

It has been reported that half of all mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% develop by age 24. Mental health challenges can negatively affect adolescent development and have a lasting impact on their ability to participate fully in their education, ability to form relationships, and can lead to the use of alcohol and illicit drugs. Early identification and intervention around mental health challenges with adolescents is key. As young people ages 10-19 make up 15% of the population in La Crosse County (2015), this project seeks to prepare its youth to lead healthy and productive lives by aiming to reverse the trend of youth at risk for depression by reducing the percentage of students at risk for depression from 31% (2015) to 23% (2010 level) as reported in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. This represents an overall relative decrease of 26%, or approximately 800 less students at risk.

Project strategies include:

  • Building resilience skills and positive social connectedness among the youth population in La Crosse county public schools grades 6-12
  • Building the capacity of informal supports such as the faith community, school staff, non-profit staff/volunteers, and employers to assist and respond to potential mental health challenges among youth and their families
  • Facilitating communication improvements among youth serving agencies, institutions and organizations

This project is part of AHW's Advancing Behavioral Health Initiative, an eight-year, $20 million initiative bringing together 10 community coalitions from across Wisconsin to address pressing mental health needs within their communities. The initiative is designed in three phases, providing a funded planning year, a five-year implementation period, and a two-year sustainable transformation phase.

Project Updates:

  • Established a diverse coalition of partners, embedding strategies within a framework of the Resilient and Trauma-Informed Community (RTIC), which utilizes a collective impact approach to facilitate how the project works with partner organizations to create systems-level changes to support the behavioral health of youth. Establishing this shared framework allows partners to engage across sectors and reinforce alignment to a common agenda that puts the largest risk factor for mental health challenges, trauma, at the forefront of the community’s work
  • Expanded partnerships in 2020 to work explicitly with marginalized communities of color, creating a two-part film resource to increase awareness, empathy, and direct action aimed at reducing racial trauma and injustices in schools and the community
  • Developed a project website and informational materials, partnering with a branding firm to create as a landing place for information and registration for various trainings and activities
  • Created "Champions" to obtain commitments from organizations committed to the work, engaging 232 Champions from 41 organizations who are identifying ways to be more responsive to youth and families. Established a training and orientation series for Champions that includes Foundation of Resilience, Foundation of Empathy, and a Champion Orientation, which provides an introduction to collective impact and an overview of work centered on ACEs science. Established outreach and engagement opportunities with partners to provide these foundational trainings as part of staff development, engaging every school district in the county in the work
  • Built resilience skills and positive social connectedness among youth through activities that included:
    • Delivering an enhanced mental health curriculum to 482 students
    • Hosting a first-ever Suicide Awareness Week in two high schools, an event that exposed 2,000 students and 1,400 parents to mental health concepts
    • Partnering with Providers and Teens Communicating for Health (PATCH) to educate, engage, and empower young people to take responsibility of their own health
    • Working with 40 school-based champions spread across five school districts and three youth-serving organizations to catalog interventions, share resources, and better understand how schools build resilience and promote social connectedness
    • Collaborating with the YMCA to develop a Dinner Table Resilience resource tool that includes videos and activity sheets to teach tips, topics, skills, and strategies to build everyday resilience
  • The project has trained 814 people in Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour, evidence-based program. Hosted a successful MHFA Community Day, which brought together nine area trainers to train 100 community members in one day. Obtained a commitment from the City of La Crosse to train all city employees in Mental Health First Aid in 2020, including bus drivers, library staff, city administration staff, and fire department. Previous training has included all 90 sworn police officers in the La Crosse Police Department and obtaining commitment from the department to train two officers as trainers in order to continue to encourage, support, and provide trainings for the community and newly sworn police officers
  • Documented more than 500 participants in mental health literacy sessions, and provided information on mental health to over 1,100 people in a Foundations of Mental Health session; Launched the Foundations of Resilience training and Foundation of Empahy trainings
  • Hosted webinar sessions to increase awareness and education on trauma-informed care, sharing information and resources on trauma-informed supervision and organizational planning using the six principles of trauma-informed care
  • Contributed to community efforts to leverage $3,267,300 in support to improve access to mental health services for students and families

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8701 W Watertown Plank Road,
Milwaukee, WI 53226-0509
(414) 955-4350