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County Executive's Office

County Executive Creates Mental Health Rapid Response Initiative to Help Children in Sun Prairie, Verona Schools

September 30, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, County Executive's Office (608) 267-8823, or cell (608) 843-5585
County Executive


Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today that his 2014 county budget will include a new initiative in Sun Prairie and Verona to address a mounting concern from Dane County school districts – how to help students suffering from mental illness.


Parisi’s effort –  the most significant new initiative in his 2014 budget – would put two professional “Mental Health Rapid Response Teams” in the Sun Prairie Area School District and Verona Area School District to help de-escalate situations with students who suffer from mental illness.


“Our Mental Health Rapid Response Teams will give teachers, law enforcement, and families powerful resources to raise awareness and acceptance of mental illness in our communities,” said Parisi.  “No child should have to suffer in silence – these teams will help provide the critical support our students need.”


A recent survey conducted by the Dane County Education Task Force reported that a majority of the county’s school district superintendents who responded listed mental health services as the most significant unmet need of children and families in their districts.


“One of our primary responsibilities as educators is to remove any barriers to learning students may have,” said Sun Prairie District Administrator Dr. Tim Culver.  “Mental health issues can create the most challenging of barriers as they present themselves in so many different ways depending on the child who is suffering.  We sincerely appreciate Mr. Parisi and Dane County putting forth this effort to address mental health issues for our children.”


Mental health crises in schools often require teachers and police to intervene, even though they may not be sufficiently equipped to remedy the situation.


The county’s Mental Health Rapid Response Teams will develop mental health crisis plans and train staff on effective interventions with children and youth whose mental health behaviors interfere with learning. 



The teams will also work with law enforcement, health care providers and families to provide mental health support for students – both in the classroom and at home.  


A study conducted by the Rand Corporation reports that an estimated 25 percent of children experience a mental health disorder annually, and that early mental health problems in children are often first identified at their schools. 


These mental health disorders can affect all aspects of a child’s life in school, at home, and socially, which may affect their ability to reach key developmental milestones.


The County Executive’s 2014 budget invests $180,000 for two teams, with each school district receiving $90,000.  In partnership with the school districts, space would be provided for the teams to work out of free of charge.


“I am proud of the work the Education Task Force has accomplished so far and I would like to thank County Executive Parisi for his dedication and commitment to support Dane County Families who's children are suffering from mental health issues,” said Sun Prairie area Supervisor Nick Zweifel. “This is a great opportunity for Dane County Human Services to collaborate with our Dane Schools for the purpose of supporting children and families dealing with mental health issues.”


"Investing in the health and well-being of our kids is good for our families, schools, and community," said Verona area Supervisor Erika Hotchkiss.  "By helping students with very real mental health needs, we are improving the learning environment for both our young people and our educators and I look forward to bringing this exciting new initiative to the Verona schools."


The County Executive will introduce his budget to the Dane County Board on October 1st.


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