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Mental health program focuses on birth to 5

Children not yet old enough even to go to school will be the beneficiaries of Catalpa Health’s latest mental health counseling program, supported by a $40,000 grant from the Community Foundation’s Bright Idea Fund.

Six nonprofits received funding totaling $179,600 for  projects meant to protect children, foster volunteerism and improve our  quality of life.

The Bright Idea Fund combines dollars from endowments established by generous donors to address ever-changing community needs in Outagamie, Calumet, Waupaca and Shawano counties and the Neenah-Menasha area of Winnebago County. Grants are made to nonprofit organizations for projects and programs addressing priorities in five focus areas the Community Foundation has defined – arts and culture, basic needs and self-sufficiency, community development, environmental sustainability and nonprofit effectiveness.

Catalpa Health Inc. received $40,000 for the first phase of a project to build their capacity to provide mental health counseling to children from birth to age 5. In this first phase of the project, Catalpa will train 10 to 15 counselors on best practices for infant mental health.

“There’s really a wide variety of mental health issues (in that age group),” said Jillian Schuh, clinical director and pediatric neuropsychologist at Catalpa. By age 5, 12% of children show signs of significant developmental or behavioral problems.

This type of therapy focuses on the parent-child relationship to strengthen attachment and bonding. These youngest children also learn skills to use words when frustrated, rather than negative behaviors. Schuh said more children are expelled from preschools than the total in grades kindergarten to 12 combined.

“The challenge with this younger age range, when those expulsions occur, is that the individual child can fall behind in their learning and interfere with the learning of other students in the classroom,” she said.

With considerable community support, Catalpa Health has taken its mental health within the walls of area K-12 schools. But it’s not enough.

Schuh said there is a growing need to work with kids at younger ages to help with school readiness. Research shows students who fall behind tend to stay behind and are most at risk for juvenile delinquency. Poverty increases the likelihood of behavioral problems.

The second phase would allow for special training needed to create an infant and toddler mental health clinic at Catalpa and to expand these services into the community, providing consultation to day care centers and other early childhood professionals.

Support for this project includes co-investment of $9,985 from the Cathryn Probst Fund and $6,118 from the Leland O. and Leone F. Skowen Charitable Fund, both within the Community Foundation.

Other Bright Idea grants awarded include:

  • Village of Kimberly – Development of a recreation trail on the former NewPage mill site, $9,600, plus a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation’s Environmental Stewardship Fund. The project would link to the “Loop the Locks” network of trails that eventually will link Appleton, Kimberly, Little Chute, Combined Locks and Kaukauna. The Kimberly segment opens a mile of Fox River bank to public access for the first time in more than 100 years.
  • Reach Counseling Services Inc. – A social media intervention program to address sexually explicit content involving K-12 children using social media, $15,000.
  • Volunteer Center of East Central Wisconsin – the Give Back Bus, which will take volunteers to surprise locations for a half-day of volunteering adventures, $25,000.
  • Sexual Assault Crisis Center – “Know More to Protect Children” project to teach 5% of the adult population of the Fox Cities how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, $20,000.
  • Feeding America – Farm Link Pilot, which will supply food pantries with more fresh produce and teaching clients about making healthy choices by contracting with area farmers to grow particular vegetables, $70,000.

You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support. See a list of all grants awarded from the Bright Idea Fund.

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