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County Executive's Office

Dane County Executive Parisi Announces New Partnerships to Bolster Community & Neighborhood Centers as Part of 2020 Budget Initiative

September 26, 2019
Ariana Vruwink
County Executive

Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined staff and volunteers from Madison area community and neighborhood centers to announce new partnerships to improve the mental health of young people, with a focus on trauma informed care. There are increasing mental health needs among young people in the community that stem from a variety of causes. The County Executive’s 2020 budget proposal includes over $600,000 in new county funds for community centers to help do this work.

“Neighborhood and community centers are an invaluable resource for our younger residents. Be it through recreation, tutoring, meals, or youth mentoring—our centers make a difference in young people’s lives every day,” said County Executive Parisi. “All of our kids deserve to thrive, and we believe providing this community based point of access to mental health services is key to that goal. It’s critical that we acknowledge, recognize, and address trauma, and we are committed to being a partner in this mission. My 2020 budget invests in these safe and welcoming spaces to provide the resources our young people need to thrive.”

Neighborhood and community centers are an integral component to the sense of togetherness Dane County residents share. These nearly two dozen centers are a gathering place for families to celebrate milestone moments of joy and rally around each other in the midst of tragedy. County Executive Parisi’s 2020 budget recognizes the potential of community centers in advancing long standing county policy priorities, such as reducing poverty, improving mental health services for young people, and bringing partners together to support families.

In the past year, the Goodman Community Center partnered with Anesis to bring community based mental health services into the center to work with young people. Dane County provided $20,000 toward this first-time effort to help with start-up. Taken to scale and done community-wide, the model offers great promise at positively impacting the well-being of young people—meeting them where they already gather. The 2020 Dane County budget includes a $500,000 grant program for community centers to launch new mental and behavioral health work for kids and families.

“Children have a difficult time reaching their limitless potential when they are facing unreasonable levels of stress and trauma related to chronic poverty, discrimination, and other adverse childhood experiences,” said Becky Steinhoff, Executive Director of the Goodman Community Center. “In 2019, the county gave the Goodman Community Center funding to begin to address this community crisis.  In only nine months, the partnership we have developed with Anesis coupled with professional development for staff is already resulting in positive outcomes for children and youth at the center. There is so much work that is needed in addressing social emotional and mental health needs of under-resourced children, families, and older adults in the Dane County community. It is marvelous to see County Executive Parisi make this extraordinary commitment.”

Childhood mental health, trauma, and poverty are all barriers to the future success of young people in the community. Neighborhood and community centers see firsthand the effects of mental health challenges and trauma on young people. To address this, County Executive Parisi’s 2020 budget includes $30,000 for community centers to offer training on trauma informed care to their volunteers and staff. Through the Building Bridges school-based mental health teams, Dane County has seen great success in bringing important services right to the physical spaces where those with needs already gather as a community. The county hopes for similar progress with this new investment in its neighborhood and community centers.

County Executive Parisi is also unveiling a brand new $95,100 program for neighborhood and community centers called Dane County “Get Outside!” The new collaborative will focus on connecting kids between the ages 7 to 14 with the vast array of natural resources and parks that contribute so much to Dane County residents’ quality of life. This program builds on a pilot effort that started this year between the Dane County Parks Department and the Bridge/Lakepoint/Waunona Community Center. It got kids outdoors to experience everything from pine cones to animal and plant species.

Dane County’s 2020 budget hires a Youth Coordinator for Dane County Parks to take on the work needed to expand this outdoor learning opportunity to other community centers such as Vera Court, Warner Park, Badger Rock, and Eagle Heights. Additional dollars are included for buses and other educational materials to run the program. Parks staff will visit centers to work with students on the importance of parks and natural areas, and from there the fun will head outdoors with an established curriculum put together by Dane County Parks staff. In an era where tablets and phones are the readymade go-to for so many kids, this initiative can instill an appreciation for the peace that comes from being out where the air is fresher and world quieter.

The County Executive’s full 2020 budget proposal will be introduced October 1.