Wisconsin Budget Proposal: Prioritizing School Mental Health

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced in a news conference today that it will be seeking a tenfold increase in mental health funding in the 2019-21 budget to meet pressing student and family needs. This includes $10 million to fully fund and expand school-based mental health services grants (previously funded at $3.25 million). This new, popular program brings schools and community providers together to serve the needs of students and families.

The increase comes in the wake of an overwhelming demand for programs that assist students with mental health challenges. One in five students faces a mental health issue, with over 80 percent of incidents going untreated. For those who do receive treatment, roughly 75 percent of the time it's administered at school. (1)

The budget proposal also seeks $44 million to extend a categorical aid that matches district funds when hiring pupil services staff. In many districts, pupil services staff are working at ratios that limit their reach and effectiveness. The previous program focused solely on social workers (with $3 million of state support).

An additional $5 million is included in the proposal to fund support for students and families. In particular, funding will go towards providing statewide training and support, including two additional programs focused on preventing youth suicide. A parent peer specialist program will also be funded, in conjunction with family-run organizations, to assist families in overcoming emotional and mental health challenges.

NAMI Dane County Board Member, Anna Moffit, made a statement at the news conference in support of the additional funds given her role as a Parent Peer Specialist at Wisconsin Family Ties. She says of the increase:

Parenting a child with mental health needs is often remarkably isolating. In addition to having to work their way through doctors’ offices, therapy sessions and special education services, parents must also face stigma and blame. As parent peer specialists, my colleagues and I bring a unique level of understanding, based our own life experience, and a high level of knowledge as a result of our in-depth training. Bringing the benefits of parent peer support to assist families with school-related challenges addresses a crucial area of need... and I’m simply thrilled both as a parent and as a parent peer specialist to be here and to speak in support of this state budget proposal.
— Anna Moffit, NAMI Dane Board Member and Parent Peer Specialist at Wisconsin Family Ties

(1) McCoy, Katherine. 2017 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Summary Report. Madison: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2018.