Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse adds behavioral health specialist through unique partnership

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A new partnership in La Crosse will help at-risk youth get the attention they need.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota and Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare are teaming up with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse to hire a full-time behavioral health specialist.

Laquita Becker will fill this new role.

"I honestly am kind of floating on cloud nine right now," she said.

She graduates this month from Viterbo University with her master's in mental health, and she has also been a case worker for Mayo Clinic Health System.

But that's not the only reason why the Boys and Girls Club says she's a great fit for the new position.

"She's extremely intelligent, and she's passionate about this kind of work, working with youth, and I've already seen her interacting with kids," said Mike Desmond, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse. "And she's got a magnetic personality, kids attract to her."

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota will fund the position for the next three years with additional assistance from La Crosse County Human Services.

Becker will be a Mayo Clinic Health System employee, but she'll work at different Boys and Girls Club locations in La Crosse to engage high risk youth and their families and to create a formal mentoring program.

"There's a lot of stigma with people getting mental health care so hopefully we can make a difference in these kids' lives, in a setting that they're comfortable with," said Julie Conway, Director of Behavioral Health Specialty Services at Mayo Clinic Health System.

The Boys and Girls Club serves 3500 children each year, and 600 each day. They also estimate that at any given time and at each location, at least ten kids are in need of more intensive case management services.

Becker says her first priority is to provide support.

"We go through so many developmental milestones during our childhood and it really sets us up for adulthood," she said. "So reaching kids at younger and younger ages and even their families can increase the odds that they're going to be successful adults."

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