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

Dane County Executive Parisi Announces School Based Health Team Expansion

February 09, 2016
Stephanie Miller: 608-267-8823
County Executive

County to Partner with School Districts to Address Mental Health


MADISON- Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced that three new school districts Deforest, Wisconsin Heights and Middleton Cross  Plains will receive funding for the 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 successful first of its kind pilot project in Madison, Sun Prairie and Verona is now being expanded to provide access to elementary and middle schools through a grant program offered to all other school districts in Dane County these three school districts won a competitive request for proposal process. 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. “Deforest, Wisconsin Heights and Middleton Cross Plains applications demonstrate their commitment to partnering to address critical mental health issues early. 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.

The Dane County Department of Human Services  will invest  $352,575.00 into mental health teams for schools.  This is a budget increase of  $127,575.00 (or 36%) from 2015.  The county will partner with Deforest, Middleton Cross Plains and Wisconsin Heights to make this program available to kids in K-8 in their districts. Catholic Charities will provide the service through a county contract.

In late 2015, County Executive Parisi and Madison School Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham announced that School Crisis Intervention Teams would be 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. 

The recently completed Dane County Youth Assessment of students across Dane county exemplifies the imperative nature of the county’s 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.   

Dane County Executive Parisi’s 2016 budget included the boldest efforts yet by Dane County government to address the challenges of mental illness in our schools and community.

# # #