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Boys & Girls Clubs Paying More Attention To Behavioral Health Of Children

La Crosse Becomes Third Club In State To Employ Behavioral Health Specialist

Classroom chairs
frankjuarez (CC-BY)

More Boys & Girls Clubs around Wisconsin are adding behavioral health specialists to their staff, with the clubs in La Crosse being the latest to do so.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse is the third club in the state to hire a full-time specialist. Executive Director Mike Desmond said it’s common for children to experience anxiety or depression so having a therapist available could encourage more children to access mental health services.

Desmond said access to these services is especially important for children who come from vulnerable situations.

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“Most of them have experienced some form of trauma in their life already at a very young age, and that trauma, especially if it’s gone unchecked or undealt with, can lead to more serious problems,” he said.

Desmond said the club has been working with county social workers and case managers to provide help for at-risk youth, so hiring their own behavioral health specialist just made sense.

“We felt that we needed to do more on our end in terms of professional services here at the club,” Desmond said.

Laquita Becker, who will graduate this month with a masters of science in Mental Health Counseling from Viterbo University, has already started to get to know the children at the clubs. She said she’s passionate about working with them.

“Kids go through some tough things during their childhood and it really can impact their whole life,” Becker said. “I think trying to keep them on the healthy development track is really important to do during childhood.”

Becker said providing mental health services at the Boys & Girls Club will make accessing services more convenient for both parents and children.

“One of the barriers for mental health services for children is that it does take time out of a parents day to go pick them up to maybe an outpatient clinic or for the child to get there, that takes away more time from their education during the day,” Becker said. “Now, it’s after school, they’re right here, I’m going to be coming to them. So it’s really increasing the access for any sort of mental health services.”

Desmond said he hopes other clubs in Wisconsin will also be able to provide mental health services.

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