The Southwestern Wisconsin Behavioral Health Partnership is a group of actively concerned professionals and citizens working to change how we respond to and prevent mental and behavioral health problems.
Our work in this area starts with acceptability – removing the stigma that is often associated with mental health and substance abuse issues. We’re also working on accessibility, finding innovative solutions, including the use of technology, to improve access to services and resources. And we work to increase availability of providers and services – figuring out real-world solutions that will work here, in our rural area of Wisconsin.
The changes we need to make are within our organizations and our communities. Our partnership is funded by the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment through the Medical College of Wisconsin. We rely on a variety of coalitions and partnerships to effectively bring together the public and/or private resources that will help us improve and expand the behavioral health services and resources in our area.
The Southwestern Wisconsin Behavioral Health Partnership project was submitted and accepted by the Medical College of Wisconsin, Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment in 2017. We are funded for five years, July 1, 2017-June 30, 2022 and continue to build relationships to improve the behavioral health of our communities. The project reach includes all five SWCAP counties: Green, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Richland.
Acceptability refers to how we respond to and provide welcoming and support for people with mental health issues and disorders. Another way to think about this is to consider the stigma people experience from others, and toward themselves – a sense of being judged, devalued and even discriminated against. We want communities and organizations to better be able reduce stigma’s impact as a barrier to support or services.
Even helping professionals have a limited knowledge of community resources and feel disconnected – we live in “silos”. Linking and networking with other organizations and professionals or supportive community groups is difficult when our individual and organizational roles are pigeon-holed. People who need support or help often don’t have just a single problem or issue – we need to connect them with community resources in a more holistic way.
We’ve been conducting Asset-Based Community Development asset-mapping and planning in our five county region, and have discovered a wealth of resources within our professionally run organizations and institutions, as well as many informal resources in our communities. We’re working to develop a comprehensive directory, and to develop and pilot ways to help us all – people looking for help and people who want to help – to navigate the systems and resources in our local communities
We will be working to increase people’s ability to receive services and support earlier and improve overall availability and accessibility. The two big areas where we plan to build capacity are with primary care providers and around our ability to provide peer support. Primary care providers are already providing behavioral health services; we will help them feel more comfortable and supported in doing this work through training and consultation.
There are also many people in our communities already providing support and a listening ear (e.g. family members, pastors, domestic violence agency staff…) and we can provide them with training and support in being peer specialists. We will also support other efforts to bring more behavioral health providers to Southwestern Wisconsin, and innovative ways to reduce barriers to access, like transportation and cost.