La Crosse School District and Gundersen partner to improve mental health access

Gundersen and La Crosse schools awarded $2.5 million grant to hire two health therapists
Mental Health Gund Schools

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse School District families with children who need someone to talk to will soon have another option at no cost. The district won a grant to help jumpstart a partnership with Gundersen Health System to hire two health therapists.

The pandemic unveiled a deeper need for a problem facing millions of children and families across the country.

“We’ve seen anxiety and depression present in our young people even before the pandemic,” Josh Court said, director of behavioral health services at Gundersen Health System.

Gundersen and the School District of La Crosse worked on an agreement over the past couple of years.

“(We will) be able to get students and families early intervention care,” Curt Teff said, La Crosse School District director of community services.

Gundersen and La Crosse schools won a five-year $2.5-million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It’s called Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education).

The program will save parents money according to Teff.

“They don’t have resources to purchase care, or maybe they have insurance but their family has a high deductible,” he said.

The most important part of the partnership is students’ peace of mind.

Students face an unforgiving social media age and the pressures to fit in. Now add adjustments to self-isolation and school schedules with zero consistency. Plus, the events that did make being a kid fun were canceled.

Court said a simple ear to listen can make all the difference for a student.

“There might be hospitalizations that might happen that could’ve been prevented had we intervened earlier,” Court said. “There’s deaths that could have been prevented if we would have intervened earlier.”

The people these children become, affect the well-being of the communities people call home.

“Ultimately younger people shape our community over time,” Teff said. “The students that we have in schools today will be the families in our communities tomorrow.”

Officials are looking for master’s level therapists who are licensed in the state of Wisconsin. For more information about the job description click here. To learn more about Project AWARE click here.