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Dane County Rolls Out More Mental Health Teams In Schools

Teachers And Staff Say Pilot Program Has Helped Behavior Problems

Shamane Mills/WPR

Dane County schools are expanding a pilot program that has helped improve classroom behavior by introducing teams of mental health workers.

A teacher survey following the implementation of so-called “school crisis intervention teams” indicates fewer students have been sent to the office or suspended.

“It has provided proactive, individualized support for students who need short-term stabilization and services the school district can’t provide,” said Madison Schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.

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The school district and Dane County are planning to jointly spend $250,000 on the program, known as Building Bridges.

“This program is really a good example of the positive results you can get when you team up your resources and focus on where they’re needed the most,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

The expansion means there will be three mobile mental health teams for all Madison elementary and middle schools.

There will also be a grant program for other districts in the county who wish to implement it.

Sherman Middle School Principal Kristin Foreman explained the school-based crisis teams are in addition to an already existing staff that deals with mental health issues, including a counselor, social worker and psychologist.

Building Bridges began in Dane County in 2014 as a pilot program. A survey of teachers and school staff this summer found 94 percent noticed improved behavior after the program, and 87 percent said there was a decrease in office discipline referrals or suspensions.

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