Yabuki Family Foundation gifts Children’s Wisconsin its largest-ever single donation

Fiserv CEO Jeffery Yabuki speaks at the opening of Fiserv Forum.
Jeffery Yabuki speaks at the opening of Fiserv Forum.

Last updated on July 28th, 2021 at 12:07 pm

The family foundation of former Fiserv chief executive officer Jeff Yabuki announced a $20 million gift to bolster mental and behavioral health care services at Children’s Wisconsin facilities.

It’s the largest single gift in the pediatric health system’s history. It also comes as children in Wisconsin are suffering from what Children’s says is a “mental and behavioral health crisis.”

The Yabuki Family Foundation gift will integrate more behavioral and mental health professionals into standard pediatric health care visits to get patients the help they need faster, Children’s said.

The gift will allow Children’s to have as many as 36 full-time master’s degree-prepared therapists, who will work alongside pediatricians in every Children’s primary and urgent care location. When fully staffed in 2023, the program could benefit more than a third of the pediatric population in southeastern Wisconsin, Children’s said. Currently, more than 175,000 kids are seen by Children’s pediatricians during routine checkups or an urgent care visit.

Through the program, therapists and pediatricians will collaborate to address concerns such as anxiety, depression, trauma, suicidal ideation, attention difficulties, sleep challenges and disruptive behaviors. That way, children and their families will have immediate access to expert help, rather than having to wait for referrals and mental health appointments, Children’s said.

The program will also add dedicated support staff to help families access an array of services, additional access to psychiatry for further diagnosis and prescription consults, and advanced training on mental and behavioral health for Children’s pediatricians.

The Yabuki Family Foundation gift also supports the creation of an endowed mental and behavioral health research chair and analytics team to monitor program efficacy, improve the initiative and share best practices with other health systems. Other funds will help expand research efforts, including a dedicated focus on understanding and reducing the increasing rate of suicide among kids.

The gift boosts Children’s five-year, $150 million vision, which was introduced in 2019, to address the mental and behavioral health crisis among children in Wisconsin. In early 2020, the initiative received what was then Children’s largest-ever single donation, a $15 million gift from an anonymous donor.

“Too many kids are in crisis,” said Peggy Troy, president and CEO of Children’s Wisconsin. “In Wisconsin, one in five children is living with a serious mental illness and hospitalization rates for mental health conditions are nearly four times the national average. Given our size, reach and commitment, Children’s Wisconsin is uniquely positioned to drive better outcomes by permanently changing our primary care model to ensure mental health is prioritized at the same level as physical health. With the incredible generosity and partnership of Jeff and his family, we are able to expedite this transformation while collecting the data and conducting the research that allows this program to serve as a model for others.”

For Jeff Yabuki, the issue of childhood mental illness is close to home. Yabuki’s brother, Craig Yabuki, experienced undiagnosed depression during childhood and in 2017 died by suicide. He was married with three children.

“Out of tragedy comes opportunity. We are honored to pay tribute to my brother by partnering with Children’s to create meaningful change for kids in Wisconsin and across the nation,” said Yabuki, who was CEO of Fiserv from 2005 to 2020. “Through our partnership, we intend to significantly advance the manner in which mental and behavioral health issues in children are diagnosed, reduce the stigma, and enable care — when needed — to be delivered in a fully integrated way. Whether a child has an earache or is feeling anxiety, we are helping families to address mental and physical health, together, and with equal importance.”

The Yabuki family is designating $5 million of its gift as a challenge grant, in which every additional gift given will be matched.

“The Yabuki family’s historic gift supports Children’s overall commitment to mental health and will drive groundbreaking advancements in how we detect and treat mental and behavioral health challenges in kids,” said Meg Brzyski Nelson, president of Children’s Wisconsin Foundation. “And through their matching challenge, we can accelerate this work even further. The community has shown incredible support for our investment in advancing mental and behavioral health. Our hope is more donors are motivated to join the Yabuki family and our team in changing the checkup and making Wisconsin’s kids the healthiest in the nation.”

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Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism. In her free time, Lauren enjoys hiking, kayaking, and seeing live music.

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