Connecting Kids to Care

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Peter and Mary

United Way Fox Cities' Peter Kelly, President and CEO, and Mary Wisnet, Program Officer, present at the Great Rivers Conference about United Way's PATH for Students.

Contributor: Nanci Micke, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at United Way Fox Cities

If you ask Mary Wisnet, Program Officer at United Way Fox Cities, what her favorite topic is you will get a quick answer: United Way’s PATH (Providing Access to Healing) for Students. It is easy to see why. This initiative has helped over 1,200 children in ten Fox Cities school districts. And the success of the program is generating interest from across the country.

United Way’s PATH for Students was launched in 2008. This school-based mental health program provides access to mental health services for children and youth who are unable to obtain care elsewhere in the community. Therapy is provided by licensed therapists from Catalpa Health, Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, and Lutheran Social Services of WI and Upper Michigan.
In 2012 a cost-benefit analysis was conducted by the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. For 155 youth treated in a single school year, the net benefits of PATH totaled $7,472,000 or approximately $49,000 per student. For students, the benefits include avoided medical costs, increased productivity and lifetime earnings, decreased risk of suicide, and increased quality of life. School districts experience decreased truancy and behavioral and counseling expenditures. For the community there are avoided costs to the criminal justice system.

In the past year, the need for school-based mental health programs has been a hot topic. Gannett Media continues to publish the Kids in Crisis Series, documenting the unmet needs for our children in connecting to mental health services and the devastating effect it has on them and their families. These stories are supported by the statistics we are seeing in our Fox Cities LIFE Study where 12% of tenth graders had reported an attempted suicide, and 15% had considered suicide.

So, when United Ways from across the Midwest gathered for the Great Rivers Conference earlier this month Mary Wisnet and Peter Kelly, our CEO, were tapped to present on our PATH program. Several United Ways have already launched PATH programs based on the Fox Cities model in their communities, including Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Our outcomes show that United Way’s PATH for students is improving lives. Perhaps the best result is that 93% of students tell us they would return to therapy if needed.