Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Announces Expansion of Mental Health Teams for Schools

September 28, 2015
Stephanie Miller, 608.267.8823
County Executive

MADISON- Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the countywide expansion of the School Based Mental Health Teams, a program developed and spearheaded by Parisi in his 2014 budget as his most significant policy initiative of that budget. At the time, the initiative was the first in the state and seen as an innovative step towards addressing mental health for our youth. The innovative, successful pilot project is now being expanded to provide access to all elementary and middle schools in Madison with a grant program offered to all other school districts in Dane County. The program connects youth with critical mental health services before a crisis occurs.

“The effects of mental illness are far reaching, affecting classrooms, families, and workplaces,” said County Executive Parisi. “We all have personal accounts of its impact and the barriers it presents to learning in school and professional development at work, not to mention the challenges it presents to maintaining safe and healthy homes.  We all have a role to play in confronting this global epidemic that when left unchecked contributes to other challenges county government plays a direct role at mitigating:  unemployment, substance abuse, domestic violence, and fractured families. I am thrilled this program has resulted in such success for our youth struggling with mental health issues.”

Based on feedback from educators, service providers, and parents, County Executive Parisi created a new program in the 2014 budget to bring mental health professionals into area schools. These School Crisis Intervention Teams have had successes in the Madison, Verona, and Sun Prairie School Districts.  Trained professionals are in the classrooms, partnering with teachers, parents, and law enforcement on addressing the root causes of genuine feelings and behaviors that sometimes manifest themselves as barriers to learning.

"Over the past year, this  partnership has provided proactive, wrap-around support to students in several of our schools," Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said. "Thanks to the leadership of the County Executive, we will be able to provide that support across our district to students who need it. We'd like to thank the county executive for including the expansion of this incredibly valuable program in his budget."


Madison School Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and County Executive Parisi are partnering to make School Crisis Intervention Teams available district wide for K-8 in Madison beginning in 2016.  With a new, shared investment of just over $250,000, Dane County and the School District will deploy 3 teams of health professionals that will provide access to all elementary and middle schools to help kids in crisis. 

Each team is comprised of two mental health experts, whose top priority is the mental health and well-being of the youth they serve.  Data shows why this investment is necessary.  Teachers and staff in the Madison School District were surveyed earlier this summer to help gauge the effectiveness of “Building Bridges.”  94% of staff surveyed noticed improved behavior after the program.  87% said there was a decrease in office discipline referrals or suspensions.  93% of Madison school staff noted a decrease in high risk behavior in the classroom. 

Outside of Madison, a new county grant program that will be available in 2016 for school districts interested in partnering to start up additional teams countywide. The program started as a pilot effort a couple of years ago in Madison, Sun Prairie and Verona and has had a direct impact on the lives of dozens of kids and their families.  This progress has garnered the attention and support of other Dane County school districts. 

The budget includes dollars to start up two new School Crisis Intervention Teams outside of Madison, pending a 50% cost share with school districts that seek to join in this effort. 

The recently completed Dane County Youth Assessment of students across our county exemplifies the imperative nature of our work in this area.  More than one in five students in 7th through 12th grade stated they felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks that they stopped some usual activities.  Just under one in five admitted to giving serious thought to killing themselves.  38% of high school students surveyed reported having long term emotional or mental health issues including depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or other mental health problem not including attention deficit disorder.   

This budget includes the boldest efforts yet by Dane County government to address the challenges of mental illness in our schools and community.


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