OCMH January 2024 Newsletter

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OCMH Newsletter - January 2024

Message from the OCMH Director, Linda Hall

Connections are the Destination is the theme of our Annual Report and our work in 2024. Last year we considered how the brain is Wired for Connection and that connection is an essential component of wellness. 

This year we’re going deeper on the connection theme – looking at the data in more detail and seeing connections as not just a step along the way to wellness, but at the heart of wellness – connection is the destination.

As we monitored the youth mental health crisis in 2023, what increasingly came into focus for us was that youth today are living lives that are markedly different from those their parents and supportive adults lived in their youth. In addition, the systems, schools and institutions that are supposed to offer support are not working for them. If we are to achieve system change that will make a difference for them, we need to listen to their ideas for solving the youth mental health crisis. So, this year we will increasingly focus on Youth Voice and Youth Leadership as we pursue system change and the roots of wellness. We know that one of the roots of wellness is belonging which is achieved in part through youth voice and connection. With a strong sense of belonging, youth are more likely to be well during adolescence and have good mental health that will last well into adulthood.

We are excited about these modest, yet significant, shifts we have planned for 2024 and hope you are too. We welcome your thoughts and your engagement with us in the year ahead.

     - Linda Hall, OCMH Director

Lived Experience Makes a Difference


The lived experience perspective is critical to transforming the children’s mental health system. Involving the voice of lived experience, both parents and youth, in our work is a foundational pillar for OCMH. For those who have been involved on an OCMH team or council, you’ve seen first-hand how our Lived Experience Partners have sat alongside you and made a difference in our work. 

Lived Experience at OCMH

For us, lived experience means a person that understands first-hand the unique life journey of people with mental health, substance abuse, trauma, or special needs. They use their perspectives to make systems better. We believe lasting transformation occurs when these wise voices are welcomed and heard.

OCMH has two categories of lived experience: 1) the parents and/or caregivers of youth who experience mental health challenges, and 2) the youth, themselves, who have mental health challenges. Although OCMH advocates for all youth ages birth through 26, our Lived Experience Partner program works with youth ages 16-26.

We call our lived experience experts Lived Experience Partners. They attend our Lived Experience Academy, a multi-year training program that equips Lived Experience Partners to effectively tell their stories to effect systems change. They participate on our councils and teams where they co-lead the work.

Lived Experience Should be Everywhere

Involving lived experience starts with listening to lived experience and sharing decision-making. Shared decision-making allows youth and families to meaningfully participate in the design and delivery of the programs that are intended to serve them. OCMH encourages organizations to incorporate lived experience in their structures and work. That can look different from one organization to another. Below are three levels to consider.


What it Looks Like


Youth and families have equal input, investment, and authority in mutually agreed upon outcomes. Examples of what this looks like: lived expert co-chair, community advisory board, lived expert grant reviewer.


Youth and families are invited to participate or contribute to some portions of a larger project or goal. Examples of what this looks like: workgroups, committees, lived expert panel


Youth and families are consulted, typically in an extremely time bound, sporadic manner. Examples of what this looks like: focus groups, surveys, public hearings, public comment.

OCMH had resources on our website to help both organizations implement lived experience and people with lived experience to elevate their voice. Learn more about OCMH’s Lived Experience Partner program.

OCMH Updates

Annual Report 2023

OCMH 2023 Annual Report Briefing

Register now for OCMH’s 2023 Annual Report Briefing on Friday, January 12, 2024, 10-11 am. There are two ways to attend:

  • Virtual
  • In person at the State Capitol – Room GAR 413N Hearing Room

Register here.

Learn the status of children’s mental health in Wisconsin, concerning trends, and what we can do to improve children's well-being.

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 Convening – Family Communication and Children’s Mental Health

OCMH launches its 2024 Social Connectedness of Youth Convenings on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, 12-1:15 pm. The topic is Family Communication and Children’s Mental Health.

Register here.

What you can expect from the 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.

Learn more – download (and share) our flyer.

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OCMH to Host Unconscious Bias Training

In response to overwhelming interest in the topic, OCMH’s Lived Experience Academy is hosting another Unconscious Bias training by Judge Derek Mosley. This free, virtual training opportunity will take place March 25, 2024 at 10:30 am- 12 pm and is open to any professionals or lived experts who want to learn more about bias and how to mitigate it in daily life. Register here.

Youth Summit

Mental Wellness Student Leadership Summit

High school student leaders are invited to attend a special summit OCMH will convene on student mental wellness. The date is Friday, April 12, 2024, 9:30 am-2:30 pm in Madison (location to be announced soon).

School-based wellness program staff can register here to reserve a spot for your school's student leaders to attend.   

What you can look forward to at the Summit:

  • Brainstorm mental health campaign ideas
  • Learn how to support friends
  • Connect with other students
  • Celebrate accomplishments

The event is free to attend and lunch and snacks will be provided.   

Download and share our flyer. For more information contact: Andrea.Turtenwald@wi.gov

Legislative & Policy Update

As we look forward and begin a new year we renew our focus on the health, mental, and emotional well-being of young Wisconsinites.  Governor Evers kicked off the current legislative biennium by declaring 2023 as the Year of Mental Health and that commitment and attention continues into the new year.

Gender Affirming Care Veto. After the Legislature passed bills that would have banned gender-affirming surgery and care for minors in Wisconsin, Governor Evers vetoed the proposals, noting that "this type of legislation, and the rhetoric beget by pursuing it, harms LGBTQ people and kids’ mental health, emboldens anti-LGBTQ hate and violence, and threatens the safety and dignity of LGBTQ Wisconsinites" in his veto message. (AB 465)

Wisconsin Implements 12-Month Continuous Health Insurance Coverage for Children. After an important federal policy change, more people who are age 19 and under will be able to access and keep Wisconsin's Badgercare Plus health coverage options, regardless of family income or other accessibility requirements.  The move, allowed by Congress, provides security and stability in health coverage for Wisconsin families with teens transitioning into adulthood. More.

Residential Treatment Facilities Legislation. While we know keeping children in their community for care can improve outcomes, some children have a higher level of need and require a higher level of care that cannot necessarily be found within our state borders.  Important legislation is being considered that would create a certification process for the development of psychiatric residential treatment facilities in our state and the monitoring of care in these and other residential treatment settings. (LRB 5301 and LRB 5437)

Teen Dating Violence Prevention Education (AB 728 / SB 696). This legislation was introduced in December and would require several state agencies and advocates to work collaboratively to develop and adopt a policy governing best practices to respond to teen dating violence or sexual violence involving school situations.  It specifies subject areas required to be covered and includes directions for how the Department of Public Instruction must incorporate this into curriculum resources and to provide for the inspection of materials, as well as the ability for parents to deny their pupil's participation.  School boards must require a similar training for specified district employees.

Virtual Behavioral Health Crisis Care Services Pilot Program (SB 610 / AB 573). This legislation requires the Department of Health Services (DHS) to create a virtual behavioral health crisis care services pilot program for local government law enforcement agencies.  The bill requires DHS to contract with a private company to provide virtual behavioral health service and select certain cities and counties to participate in a pilot program.  To participate, a local government must pay 30% of the cost of the equipment and services and at least half of the program's resources can go to local governments with a population over 50,000, and no more than 10% of resources can go to a single local government.  DHS must collect information and report on the program by May 2025.

Peer Counseling (SB 621 / AB 576). This bill, as amended by Assembly Amendment 1, is aimed at taking care of the caretakers.  It requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a program for law enforcement and emergency services agencies to create peer support teams and critical incident stress management services teams within their organizations.  The bill was passed on a voice vote in the Assembly and is awaiting a final vote in the Senate.

Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault & Child Abuse Victims. This bill increases funding for DOJ-awarded grants for organizations that provide services to victims of sexual assault by $7 million in 2023-24, and $18 million in 2024-25. It also increases funding for the Department of Children and Families (DCF)-awarded grants to organizations that provide domestic violence services by $7 million in fiscal year 2023-24 and $18 million in 2024-25. The critical work of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) in combating child abuse is supported by increasing funding for DOJ contracts to specified CACs, funding a new CAC in Ozaukee County, and funding the statewide organizing body. (LRB 5396)

Of Interest

Year of Mental Health

Gov. Evers Talked about the Year of Mental Health

In mid-December, Gov. Evers delivered the Democratic Radio Address on the Year of Mental Health and his efforts to invest in expanding access to mental and behavioral healthcare. Read the transcript.


January is National Mentor Month

National Mentoring Month is an annual campaign celebrated in January and dedicated to raising awareness about the power and impact of mentoring. OCMH sees particular potential in building meaningful relationships between older adults and youth, not only to improve mental wellness but to help address social isolation and loneliness. Learn more about National Mentoring Month. Learn about 2024 National Mentoring Month toolkits and graphics.

January is National Mental Wellness Month

National Mental Wellness Month in January provides an opportunity to start the new year off right by paying attention to your mental wellness and the mental wellness of those around you. Statistics are concerning: 52% of Wisconsin’s high school students report anxiety and 34% report feeling sad or hopeless every day (YRBS), and NAMI reports as much as 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. Prioritize your mental wellness – take a few minutes to research mental wellness sometime this month.

Mental Health and Well-Being Guide for Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a December 2023 publication – Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being in Schools: An Action Guide for School and District Leaders. The action guide was designed for school administrators in kindergarten through 12th grade schools to identify evidence-based strategies, approaches, and practices that can positively influence students’ mental health. Access the guide. Additional resources from the CDC.

Collaboration Guide for Schools and Community Mental Health Providers

This new guide addresses a range of issues that have emerged over the past several years as schools and communities have continued to grow access to mental health services and treatment as part of implementing the comprehensive model of school mental health. The guide was developed by the Wisconsin Coalition for Expanding School-Based Mental Health working with an advisory committee. It expands on guidance the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released in 2016 to support school efforts to connect with community mental health providers. Guide authors note that the resource is not legal advice. Access the guide.


Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Consultation Survey

As we discussed in the OCMH July 2023 newsletter, an IECMH Consultation program is being developed in Wisconsin. Once implemented, the service gives professionals who work in early childhood care and education access to qualified mental health specialists. These specialists provide support, guidance, and resources to address mental health concerns in infants and young children. The Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health (WiAIMH) is developing the program which they call Healthy Minds Healthy Children.

To better understand what families and community members think about the mental health and emotional and behavioral development of children in Wisconsin, WiAIMH has re-opened a survey they had previously done. They invite families and community members who have not already taken the survey to do so. Access the survey:

The survey requires a password which is: Wisconsin (make sure to include the capital W).

Don't spread yourself too thin