Behavioral health specialist added to Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse

Position funded by Ronald McDonald House Charities, Mayo Clinic Health System, La Crosse County

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse is adding a new staff member to offer even more support for at-risk youth.

This new position is one of the first of its kind, a behavioral health specialist solely dedicated to the children at the Boys and Girls Clubs.

 It’s made possible through a partnership between Ronald McDonald House Charities, Mayo Clinic Health System and La Crosse County.

At any one time, at least 10 or more children at each site need more intensive case management services. The goal of the new collaboration is to provide support and help children build a brighter future, officials say.

Laquita Becker has been at the Mathy Club only for about two weeks but she is already starting to feel at home as the new behavioral health specialist.

“The buzz is on the street that she is here,” said Mike Desmond, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse.

“A lot of them are wondering what I am doing there, so they are coming in and talking to me and being very welcoming,” said Becker.

It’s a new position that will offer support to kids on a deeper level.

“What her role would be is first and foremost a resource to our staff in working with all of our kids, but particularly focusing on most at-risk kids,” said Desmond.

“At risk really means maybe they haven’t quite tipped the scale of getting into serious trouble, but they have the background that puts them on that path,” said Becker.

Becker’s role will be to tip the scale back in a healthy direction.

“What we are seeing is more and more kids in need of some extra help in dealing with a lot of things that are going on in their lives,” said Desmond.

“(We’re) trying to look at the child and family as a whole unit and looking at all facets of their life to try and support them in the best way to make them successful,” said Becker.

Director of La Crosse Human Services Jason Witt said the more that can be done to keep children out of the juvenile system, the better the end result.

“The deeper the youth go into the system, the harder it is to break that cycle,” said Witt. “These are kids who have challenging family situations or school so already have a lot of barriers, so when you are in the justice system, that adds additional barriers.”

More than 100 children visit the Mathy Club on a daily basis, but Becker said she is excited to get started.

“I get to be in the trenches of working with these kids. It’s not in a hospital setting or an outpatient setting. It’s really getting to see them interact with each other and be that kind of presence in their kind of home. A lot of them consider this their home,” said Becker.

Becker will also be in contact with the School District of La Crosse and La Crosse County Human Services’ community social workers to make sure everyone is on the same page in helping children reach their fullest potential at school, at home and in the community.

The new position will be funded for three years by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota. Mayo Clinic Health System will employ Becker and provide license-mandated oversight of the position. La Crosse County Human Services will be helping out financially as well.