A Healthier Wisconsin

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:$1,000,000.00
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.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:

  • Provided professional development opportunities to staff at youth-serving agencies and schools, including Motivational Interviewing, Youth Mental Health First Aid, and an eight-module course to bring social emotional learning practices into the classroom
  • Reached all law enforcement officers with Mental Health First Aid Training resulting in four officers becoming trainers and the development of a Community Resources Unit to ensure that trained health professionals accompany officers to crisis situations
  • Worked with all five La Crosse County public school districts and most youth-serving agencies across the county changing how organizations collaborate and leading to the adoption of foundational Mental Health First Aid training for all staff in all school districts and multiple youth-serving agencies
  • Co-developed the Resilient and Trauma-Informed Community Effort that educates the community about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with over 2,000 individuals attending a Foundation training and 300 champions engaged in the ongoing effort
  • Partnered with Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Office of Children's Mental Health to create Mental Health Literacy Kits for distribution to schools in La Crosse County and across the state

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