Building a Behavioral Health System for Marathon County Youth

Advancing Behavioral Health Initiative Phase II: Reducing depression in 6-12th grade students

Full Project Name:Building a Behavioral Health System to Reduce Reported Depression Among 6-12th Grade StudentsPrimary Community Organization:Marathon County Health DepartmentPrimary Academic Partner:Michelle Broaddus, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral MedicineAward Amount:$999,139
Award Date
Project Duration:60 months

Project Description Narrative:

Advancing Behavioral Health Initiative Phase II In 2015, one out of five Marathon County high school students reported that they were depressed in the past year, and nearly one-third reported having three or more poor mental health days in the previous month. In addition, 21.3% of Marathon County 9th-12th grade students were at-risk for depression during the past year according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Analysis of the YRBS results demonstrate a clear link between students who were at-risk for depression and students with poor mental health days with an increase in other health risk behaviors, including self-harm, tobacco and alcohol use, and taking prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription.

To address student poor mental health days and risk for depression as well as related student health issues, project partners aim to reduce reported depression in 6-12th grade students in Marathon County by 5% by 2020 by:

• Increasing accessibility and utilization of on-site mental health counseling services in all 10 Marathon County school districts
• Increasing knowledge and awareness of student population needs among school districts, community agencies, local government entities, and parents through data sharing
• Using local data to more effectively allocate resources across Marathon County public school districts and Marathon County community organizations to address youth needs within schools and community organizations to improve behavioral health outcomes

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:

  • Led development of the Marathon County School-Based Counseling Consortium (MCS-BCC), building upon and increasing countywide commitment and alignment around system changes in behavioral health by onboarding two additional mental health clinics; developing a shared communication platform; reassessing the complex MCS-BCC structure and revising written agreements to fit the scope of the group and current needs; collecting and sharing qualitative and quantitative data related to school-based mental health counseling to demonstrate the effectiveness of counseling and to shape the narrative regarding school-based mental health counseling in Marathon County; and, increasing the capacity of school staff to better address mental health needs of students through professional development opportunities
  • Identified opportunities to maintain and enhance MCS-BCC member relationships, including developing formalized processess and documents to guide the decisions of the group with an intentional focus on dissemination and sustainability of the program. In addition, a Program Manual and Frequently Asked Questions documents were created for internal stakeholders and a written and agreed-upon sucession planning protocol was added to the collaboration charter
  • Increased accessibility and utlization of on-site mental health counseling services in Marathon County public schools districts, launching effort to have participating mental health clinics provide mental health counseling service access in every public school for at least a half-day per week. To do so, project partners:
    • Increased the number of signed agreements between school districts and mental health providers from 4 to 20
    • Increased the number of schools that provide on-site mental health counseling services from 11-59
    • Increased the number of days per week in 59 schools which a licensed mental health therapist is onsite at school from 4 to 45
    • Increased the number of licensed mental health therapists providing services at schools from 3 to 28
    • Increased the number of students served by licensed mental health therapists at school from 30 to more than 215
  • Released the first Impact of School-Based Counseling in Marathon County report, demonstrating program effectiveness through quantitative data and quotes from students. Disseminated more than 1,200 reports locally, regionally, and nationally
  • Established COVID-19 response, partnering with MCS-BCC mental health clinics and Marathon County public school districts to increase education and awareness of youth mental health needs in school staff, students, and parents by:
    • Developing and sharing pre-written marketing materials for school districts, working with largest school district to update webpages with relevant school-based counseling information
    • Established tele-mental health services for school-based therapists, ensuring all clinics were able to offer virtual therapy for students in addition to those that continued to offer in-person therapy
    • Disseminated free trainings to MCS-BCC clinic supervisors to support development of effective engagement techniques for pediatric mental health
  • Received recognition with a 2018 Spotlight Award from the Marathon County AOD Partnership for increasing access to mental health services for youth
  • Assured collaboration building continues by dedicating time on each monthly agenda to troubleshoot challenges, working to lean into vulnerable conversations and work effectively together to solve problems, build trust, and keep momentum and success building

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8701 W Watertown Plank Road,
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