Green Bay – Brown County has awarded the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Green Bay a $100,000 grant to create a new mental health counselor position, which will give young people and families additional treatment options.
Unlike many other treatment methods, this treatment is free.
This isn’t the first time the Green Bay Club has prioritized mental health in its community mission. Brock Unrath, director of the department, said it was among the first boys and girls clubs in the US to include a socio-emotional learning department in 2017.
“Accessibility (for mental health) is always an issue, and we are trying to help by having a resource in the club for the kids who are already there,” Unrath said. “This way, parents don’t have to leave work to take care of their children.”
Being young is especially difficult these days, and it can be hard to find support. Some families do not have health insurance, or they do not have insurance that adequately covers treatment. Other families, pressured against job obligations, do not have the freedom of time to provide their children with the care they need. Others are stranded in long queues to speak to a professional, only to discover that a therapist may not be the right person for their child’s needs.
But new money from the Federal Pandemic Relief Fund is coming to local organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, to break down some of those barriers.
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Brown County gave the club the money from the American Rescue Plan funding, but the need for a mental health counselor came long before the grant, Unrath said. Before the pandemic, Great Green Bay Club had a partnership with establish An organization to get its young members the care they need.
Unrath said the pandemic forced the club to close for some time and when it reopened, the youth underwent a worrying transformation. The Boys and Girls Club needed more than just a partnership. He needed more core staff to support the new and new needs of young people.
It was already common for Unrath to work with children who had incarcerated parents and children who were trans or moving from one foster family to another — but these ensuing mental health issues and concerns have been magnified during the pandemic.
“I see higher suicidal thoughts now in children at a much higher rate than I did before,” Unrath said.
As more young people die by suicide in Wisconsin, barrier-free solutions are needed
If other boys and girls clubs in the area are any indication, the inclusion of a mental health counselor in the large Green Bay Club will allow children, youth and families to seek “solution-based” care while they are on waiting lists for more long-term care, said Lisa Coogan. Praska, Executive Director.
The people who often fail to get care, whether it’s short or long-term, are young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, as well as children of all ages, according to 2019 Behavioral Health Systems Gap in Wisconsin Report. Researchers speculate that some of the causes are due to lack of counselling, stigma, bias, cost barriers, lack of support options, and insurance issues.
Even before the pandemic, the crisis was worsening. Wisconsin Department of Health Services statistics revealed that in 2018, the most recent period of comprehensive reporting, 54 people under the age of 20 died by suicide.
Ten years ago in 2008, for example, the same age groups in Wisconsin had 31 deaths by suicide. This number was steadily increasing.
Onrat and Kogan Braska agreed that the pandemic had made something bad much worse, enough cannot be said.
Kogan Brasca said that little things generate big feelings in young people. Two years of distance learning suddenly pushed people from real-time social contact as a high school student to now becoming a senior with the social knowledge of a sophomore. Along the way, they miss events like prom, homecoming, and all the vagaries of class behavior.
“They have lost essential and crucial parts of their development and socialization,” Kogan-Brasca said. “They need help understanding and processing all this grief.”
Unrath said the mental health counselor will work on both the east and west sides of the Green Bay Club in the after-school period, as will the rest of the SEL team. She expects the counselor to have a workload of 10 to 15 people as well as teamwork with the children.
Kogan-Praska said the free service is not a silver bullet, but it could start conversations that lead to more long-term sponsorship. Data from neighboring Fox Valley Boys and Girls Clubs suggests that over time, their approach can introduce children in need—and some parents—with professional and experienced counselors.
Fox Valley moved from a counseling center to a charter club in 1998. Today it has two counselors as well as case managers and professionals who work with defectors or young transgender people.
On average, children and young adults who work with on-site counselors do so for six to eight months, said Carlin Andrew, director of counseling and training for Boys and Girls Clubs in Fox Valley, and undergo an average of 10 sessions.
Andrew said that youth development depends on a number of factors: academic success, good character and citizenship, and a healthy lifestyle. Andrew said a programmatic approach to enriching all three of these factors is the name of the game for boys’ and girls’ clubs.
Today, Andrew said, research shows that social emotional development is related to health outcomes such as nutrition and risk-averse behaviors.
“The more skilled young people are, the more prepared they will be to face the stresses and adversities that will confront them,” Andrew said.
Findings from on-site mental health counselors at Boys and Girls Clubs in Fox Valley revealed reduced symptoms in 95% of clients undergoing counseling services.
Kogan Brasca said grants for mental health programs at her club in Green Bay are “scratching the surface” in conversations about upcoming permanent mental health models.
“I would like to see that we can scale this up in a sustainable way if we can,” Kogan Brasca said. “Because I think the needs certainly exist on a much larger level than just one role that can support it.”
Natalie Elbert covers mental health issues for USA TODAY NETWORK-CENTRAL WISCONSIN. She welcomes story tips and feedback. You can access it at firstname.lastname@example.org Or view her Twitter profile at Tweet embed. If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or write “Hopeline” to the National Crisis Text Line at 741-741.