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Basic Needs Giving Partnership awards $1.2 million in grants

Students returning from in-patient mental health treatment to three Fox Cities high schools will be able to attend an alternative school as a transition to their regular classes, thanks to a $300,000 grant over three years from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, part of a $1.2 million awarded to four nonprofit organizations last month.

Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin proposed the program. The Kimberly, Kaukauna and Little Chute school districts have all signed on to the alternative school location to be offered for students who don’t require or aren’t receiving day treatment at a mental health provider.

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership is funded by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley, with additional money from the J. J. Keller Foundation and other community partners. It awards grants twice a year to nonprofit organizations working to address the root causes of poverty. The $1,190,920 awarded in this round of grants approaches what was granted out by the Basic Needs Giving Partnership in all of last year.

Other grants include:

  • Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities – $300,000 over three years for subsidized housing and support services to build independence and healthy living skills in young adults who have mental illness. The housing would also include market-rate units. NAMI Fox Valley is collaborating in the project.
  • Samaritan Counseling – $295,920 over three years to improve mental health care for Spanish-speaking populations. NAMI Fox Valley is collaborating in this project as well.
  • Partnership Community Health Clinic – $295,000 over three years for the health clinic to expand a clinic it operates at COTS, which offers transitional housing for people who have been homeless. The project was piloted through the POINT (Poverty Outcomes and Improvement Network Team) initiative, in which industry people experienced in continuous improvement techniques mentor nonprofit leaders.

Three of the four grants awarded in November address mental health, increasingly a component of the partnership’s mission of reducing the root causes of poverty. Grants committee members continue to support filling in gaps in mental health care as a solution to poverty, said Lynn Peters, community engagement manager at the Community Foundation, because mental health problems can create barriers to education and employment.

Maren Peterson, executive director of NAMI, which is collaborating in the Housing Partnership and Samaritan projects, said the stigma of mental illness is even greater in Latino cultures and getting care – in short supply for everyone –  is more difficult with a language barrier. “This is something we are very excited about,” Peterson said. NAMI hired a Spanish-speaking advocate. “We are opening the lines of communication, but where were these people going to go? The additional services funded by the Basic Needs grant will go a long way in helping us provide more comprehensive support and services for our Latino community.”

On the Housing Partnership project, she said young adults with mental illness lose the support they received by attending school or living in foster care. “It’s a particularly vulnerable time for people dealing with mental health issues,” she said.

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