$20 Million From State Endowment Promised For Mental Health Programs

Medical College of Wisconsin Launches 8-Year Effort To Improve Behavioral Health


An endowment overseen by the Medical College of Wisconsin is committing $20 million to improve mental and behavioral health through community-based programs.

The state’s two medical schools got millions when Blue Cross Blue Shield United switched to a for-profit company in 2003 and reimbursed the state for tax credits the company had been given. Since then, that endowment money has been used to further medical research and improve community health.

Paula Lucey, chair of the group overseeing what’s known as the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said they will continue to give grants to groups needing them, but they’re hoping for broader impact with a new eight-year, $20 million effort which includes 26 counties across the state.

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“We really became very aware of how behavioral health really affects chronic disease risk, how it really affects people’s quality of life,” Lucey said. “We are really aware of how people with behavioral health challenges are more likely to die earlier.”

Statistics by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show 4 percent of adults in Wisconsin report having a serious mental illness.

Lucey said the partnership program saw an unmet need that community organizations could help fill.

“And we wanted them to ask us to invest with them on doing things that were going to make a sustainable change, things that would make a change in their infrastructure,” she said. “Not something that was going to go away when the money went away.”