OCMH December 2023 Newsletter

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OCMH Newsletter

The Promise of Screening Kids for Wellness


The Office of Children’s Mental Health has released a playbook on universal screening in schools. The guidance – School-Based Wellness Screening, In Brief – provides a quick overview of what is happening with universal wellness screening around the nation and in Wisconsin. We share key resources on school-based screening, including a recent three-part webinar series from the Great Lakes Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network (MHTTC). Additionally, the guide breaks down the process into 12 digestible steps. Schools and districts can use these resources as a playbook for starting or growing their screening program.

During the past year our office has taken an interest in universal mental health screening, especially school-based wellness screening. We held a series of meetings over the 2022-23 school year exploring best practices around universal screening in schools. We discussed implementation successes and challenges with various districts, community providers, and youth mental health partners throughout the state. These collective efforts led us to issue a Universal Screening Fact Sheet and discuss screening on the School Mental Health Works! podcast.

Some key messages that have resonated with us:

  • Preventative approaches and systems that catch problems early are less costly to treat and result in better outcomes for kids and their families.
  • Embedding screening in a familiar setting helps to normalize the process, reduce stigma, and presents an opportunity to identify kids who are struggling – many of whom struggle quietly.
  • Screening is more cost effective and accurate than training teachers to identify hidden warning signs.
  • Screening is an opportunity for students to identify the coping skills that work for them, which in turn builds their resiliency to face stressful situations.
  • Screening can also develop students’ understanding and awareness of the resources available to them.

This is a time of year when many students feel very stressed, when their academic pressures ramp up. Heading into the holiday season is also an excellent time to highlight protective factors and help youth identify the coping skills that work for them.

We hope to convey how important, strategic, and cost-effective preventative approaches like universal screening are to youth mental health. Please join us in sharing this work as we continue to address the youth mental health crisis.

2023 - The Year of Mental Health

Year of Mental Health

When Gov. Evers declared 2023 the Year of Mental Health early in the year, he provided a platform for engagement and discussion on the mental health crisis we are experiencing in Wisconsin. The Governor called it a burgeoning crisis and cautioned that it will have consequences for generations if we don’t treat it with the urgency it requires.

The Governor especially called out the need to take care of our kids who continue to see extremely high rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts, especially among girls, kids of color, and LGBTQ youth. The State budget Gov. Evers signed helped youth mental health by providing $30 Million to continue funding for school-based mental health services. This meets kids where they are at – in school. The funding included:

  • Promoting trauma-sensitive schools with mental health programs that identify students who need treatment and get them connected to mental health professionals.
  • Youth-led mental health programs where students help support their peers.
  • Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation.
  • Having people with youth mental health lived experience identify needed systems change.

OCMH leveraged the Year of Mental Health declaration to extend discussions and action on youth mental health. Highlights include:

  • Director Linda Hall issued children’s mental health State budget recommendations.
  • Mental Health Action Toolkit published during May’s Children’s Mental Health Month.
  • Convened youth leaders of school mental health programs from across the state.
  • A Lived Experience Academy Summit brought together parents, caregivers, and youth with mental health experience.
  • Four Social Connectedness of Youth Collective Impact Teams developed action plans.
  • Issued five children’s mental health Fact Sheets.
  • Increased media attention and social media presence.
  • Teen Coping Kits shared at state events.

The work is never done! As we move into 2024, we ask everyone to think about what you can do to improve youth mental health in Wisconsin.

OCMH Updates

OCMH 2023 Annual Report Briefing

You are invited to join us at the release of our 2023 Annual Report – Connections are the Destination.

Friday, January 12, 2024 • 10-11 am

In person at the Wisconsin State Capitol (GAR 413N Hearing Room) or Virtual

Register here

Join us as we release our 2023 Annual Report, share important children’s mental health data, and highlight what is ahead for the Office of Children’s Mental Health in 2024.

Want to hear the briefing but have a conflict? There is an option in the registration to sign up to receive the recording link.

Social Connectedness of Youth puzzle

OCMH 2024 Collective Impact Convenings – You are invited!

Family Communication and Children’s Mental Health is the topic of OCMH’s first Social Connectedness of Youth 2024 Convenings. Join us Wednesday, January 17, 2023 from 12-1:15 pm (virtually) to dig into this topic and consider what can be done at a community level to strengthen our youth through family connections.

Register here for the January convening.

What you can expect in this convening:

  • The why – we’ll look at data that shows why it is important for families to share ideas and talk about things that matter.
  • Learn from others – in small group discussions you’ll hear from others what they are seeing in their communities regarding family conversations. Come ready to share!
  • Meet others and network – connect with others in your area and share best practices.

We want to inspire local work on social connectedness of youth. To do that, we will hold virtual convenings on our social connectedness of youth categories throughout the first six months of 2024.  

Mark your calendars for all our 2024 convenings:

  • February 28, 2024 - 12-1:15 pm Ӏ Youth Participation in Activities (Cultural Identity/Community)
  • March 20, 2024 - 12-1:15 pm Ӏ Supportive Adult besides Parent (Supportive Adult)
  • April 24, 2024 - 12-1:15 pm Ӏ School Belonging (Schools/Early Education)
  • June 19, 2024 - 12-1:15 pm Ӏ Making and Keeping Friends/Difficulty with Relationship (Peers)

All convenings are virtual. Look for invitations to each as the dates approach.


Lived Experience Academy Training on Implicit Bias

In December the Lived Experience Academy held an Implicit Bias training with renowned speaker Judge Derek Mosley. 33 parent and youth leaders from across Wisconsin attended the training and had very positive takeaways:

  • Bias exists for all of us because of the lessons we absorb from society at an early age.
  • Be deliberate and patient in trying to dismantle the bias.
  • It was honestly a life-changing experience for me, and I hope to apply what I learned to my work in the future.

The Office of Children’s Mental Health and Department of Children and Families plan to host another Implicit Bias virtual training with Judge Derek Mosley in early 2024 for anyone to attend.

Happy New Year

Happy Holidays and Thank You!

Your team at OCMH wishes you and yours the very best this 2023 holiday season. We extend our heartfelt thanks to you for your commitment to children’s mental health and look forward to working alongside you in the new year. Happy Holidays!

Holiday Flyer

Ideas to Make Your Holidays Meaningful

The holidays are a great time to connect with loved ones and friends. OCMH offers ideas to make the holidays meaningful. Check out and share these flyers:

Research News

Research News in Youth Mental Health

The monthly list of recent articles, resources, and research findings impacting youth mental health prepared by OCMH Senior Research Analyst Amy Marsman has transitioned to its own email newsletter. So, if you have enjoyed reading this in the OCMH Newsletter, make sure to sign up for OCMH’s Research News in Youth Mental Health. Sign up here.

See our most recent issue here.

Legislative & Policy Update

As the first year of the legislative biennium comes to a close, Gov. Evers has carefully considered and taken action on the proposals that have come before him recently, while other newer initiatives are just beginning to work through the legislative process.

Evers Stands with Doctors and Stands Up for ALL Children 

This month Gov. Evers vetoed Assembly Bill 465, a bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for all patients under age 18.  According to the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry gender-affirming care saves lives.  Doctors should not be needlessly restricted from providing medically appropriate, evidence-based care for their patients. The Governor’s veto message is available here.

"Healthy School Meals For All" Legislation (LRB 3878/1)

This month "Healthy School Meals For All" legislation was circulated, which would provide additional state aid to schools to ensure all Wisconsin students are provided with a free meal.  The evidence is clear that it is easier for kids to fill their heads when they do not worry about filling their stomachs.  We know children who are food insecure are much more likely to be anxious and depressed, or to have feelings that they do not belong at school. 

Ban on Firearms Restrictions in School-based Places of Worship (LRB 2700/1 and 5157/10)

Concerning new legislation has circulated that would allow for gun possession on private school grounds.  While current law generally makes it a felony to possess a firearm on school grounds, this bill would allow firearms in a place of worship on the grounds of a private school if the school's governing body has a policy allowing this, and provided either no classes are being held at the time at the school or that the place of worship’s governing body has determined a special event is occurring.  

Out-of-State MA Telehealth Options (SB 476)

Currently, out-of-state health care providers that serve Wisconsin Medical Assistance (MA) recipients via telehealth may apply for certification as a MA provider in our state under the state's administrative code.  SB 476 would further enshrine that provision in state statute and would prohibit DHS from later requiring an out-of-state provider to maintain an in-state address.  This allows for greater care options for citizens of border communities.  On December 1, the Senate Committee on Health voted 6-0 to recommend passage of this bill.

Kin-like Health Care Protection Provisions (AB 557 / SB 520)

Under current law, "kinship care" allows for children to be placed with and cared for by a variety of unlicensed, non-relative individuals with "like-kin" familial-type relationships.  Under the bill an individual who has a significant emotional relationship with a child or the child's family that is similar to a familial relationship and, for an Indian child, an individual who is identified by the child's tribe as kin or like-kin would qualify.  The bill clarifies that a current or former foster parent could be considered “like-kin.” The bill passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote by the Assembly.

Of Interest

Survey for People with Lived Experience in the Crisis Services System

The Division of Care and Treatment Services (DCTS) is seeking to understand how comfortable people with lived experience in mental health and substance abuse are working in crisis services and how they are currently working in crisis services. DCTS has extended the deadline for this survey to December 23, 2023. If you have already completed the survey there is no need to complete it again. Access the survey here.

Funding Opportunity for Pediatric Mental Health Care Access and Education Program

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Division of Public Health (DPH) announces the availability of funds made available through the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program (PMHCA). The purpose of PMHCA is to promote behavioral health integration into pediatric primary care by supporting the planning and development of state, regional, or Tribal pediatric mental health care teleconsultation access programs. Learn more. 

Senior and kids

Grandparents – Nurturing Bonds with Teens during the Holidays

For grandparents raising their teenage grandchildren, this time of year can be both special and present a unique set of challenges. See eight ways to bond with teen grandkids.


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