Children’s Wisconsin has completed a $5 million fundraising challenge in support of its effort to integrate mental and behavioral health care providers into each of its primary care offices and urgent care locations.
The Change the Checkup Challenge launched in July 2021 as part of a $20 million commitment from the family foundation of former Fiserv chief executive officer Jeff Yabuki. The Yabuki Family Foundation designated $5 million of its gift as a challenge grant, in which every additional gift given would be matched.
The funds will support Children’s plans to hire 36 full-time master’s degree-prepared therapists, some of whom have already begun working alongside pediatricians in its primary and urgent care locations. To date, 10 full-time therapists have worked with more than 2,600 children.
When fully staffed by the end of 2023, Children’s said the effort could benefit more than a third of the pediatric population in southeastern Wisconsin.
The fundraising campaign brought in $5.2 million in donations from 675 donors. The largest gift was a $1 million commitment from Billie Kubly, who has made several significant donations to mental health-related initiatives in Milwaukee in recent years.
“The support this challenge has received reflects not only the growing recognition of the importance of the mental health of our kids, but also the generosity, respect and leadership of Jeff Yabuki,” said Peggy Troy, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Wisconsin.
Since unveiling a $150 million plan in 2019 to address growing mental and behavioral health needs among children in Wisconsin, the health system has raised more than $52 million to support its initiatives. Funds have come from more than 1,000 donors. Several donors have contributed $1 million or more, including The Boldt Co., Dan and Karen Buehrle, Sue and Curt Culver, Jerry and Becky Jendusa and family, Kohl’s Corp., Billie Kubly, the Reiman Foundation, Rexnord Foundation and United Health Foundation.
“The trust and faith of our donors is inspiring and we appreciate that so many recognize how much more still needs to be done to put mental health on the same plane as physical health,” said Meg Brzyski Nelson, president of Children’s Wisconsin Foundation.
In addition to integrating mental health services in primary care and specialty clinics, the health system’s investment areas include universal screening for mental health, regardless of a child’s visit; early childhood mental health services; school-based mental and behavioral health programs; offering a pediatric psychiatric assessment team and space in the Children’s emergency department; partnerships with inpatient and residential care providers; and establishing a therapist fellowship program.
To date, 28 aspiring therapists have participated in Children’s fellowship program, which expedites the process of completing 3,000 hours of clinical training needed to get licensed.
Also, last month, Children’s opened a mental health walk-in clinic on its Wauwatosa campus to serve children with urgent behavioral health needs.