Initiative aims to improve mental health of Chippewa Valley youth

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- An initiative to promote and improve the mental health of youth in the Chippewa Valley is kicking off.

The Mental Health Matters coalition got a million dollar, five year grant, to provide information and resources for youth-serving professionals throughout the community.

Eighteen organizations from Chippewa and Eau Claire counties have come together to form the coalition over the past year as well as complete the first phase of the initiative. Now, the coalition is gearing up to implement phase two.

Project director, Brenda Scheurer explained, “This grant is about bringing the community together to support youth and building protective factors and resilience so they can cope with stress.”

The coalition is focusing on three strategies. Those include education and awareness, providing mindfulness based reduction strategies in schools, and building a collaborative data system to help make future decision in the community.

“The purpose of this grant is really prevention so we can provide support to adults who can in turn support our youth,” added Scheurer.

The Mental Health Matters coalition is including the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls school districts in its initiative after it did a study last year and found 28-percent of local middle school and high school students felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row.

Scheurer said, “For the education and awareness piece we're working on putting together a presentation that covers all of the same kinds of elements such as adverse childhood experiences,
trauma informed care, the importance of protective factors and resilience.”

Coalition representatives from education, community based organizations, the faith sector, government and health care, like Mayo Clinic Health System, will be working to implement the effort hopefully later this year.

Director of community engagement and wellness at Mayo Sara Carstens said, “We're all coming into this together realizing that problems that we're facing with mental health are so massive. We'll be much more able to impact the issue by working together and pooling our resources, our expertise, our time and coming together to make a bigger, broader impact that will hopefully last.”

The coalition says it will spend the next five years focused on the implementation of its programming.

It is set to run until June first 2022.

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