Moving the Needle on Mental Health

Thursday, May 3, 2018

NEW Mental Health

(Transcribed and edited from an interview with Beth Clay, Executive Director of N.E.W. Mental Health Connection, on WHBY's Fresh Take with Josh Dukelow. The interview was part of the Fox Cities LIFE Study's LIFE in Motion Series, a collaborative partnership with United Way Fox Cities, the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, and the Fox Cities Chamber. Listen to the full interview online.)
The N.E.W. (Northeast Wisconsin) Mental Health Connection that now serves Outagamie, Winnebago, and Calumet counties was born out of the 2006 Fox Cities LIFE Study. That study found that mental health issues had jumped to the forefront of our every day community life. A Community Health Action Team plunge, led by ThedaCare, took a deep dive into the issue of mental health, culminating with a mental health summit in 2011.

An outcome of the summit was the decision to create a standalone organization that could serve as a backbone to drive the work that looks at mental health, not just as a health issue, not just in our schools, and counseling offices, but in every domain in our communities. N.E.W. Mental Health Connection believes that mental health is a community issue and that is how we approach it. This makes the organization unique because we look at dealing with issues that are above and beyond any individual service provider’s strategic plan. The Connection looks at the big questions like: access, dealing with stigma, workforce shortages, and statistical data at a population health level that might be an alarming number. Moving the needle on those issues is our goal.

The Connection is a membership organization. We are moving forward to be fully sustainable on our membership dues alone and we are around 60% of the way there. I am proud to share that we have 80 member organizations including schools, municipalities, police, and homeless shelters. These are groups that may not be working on mental health as their mission, but mental health issues touch their work every day.

LIFE Study research was a motivating factor in the community to create N.E.W. Mental Health Connection. Looking back on our beginnings we know we would probably not exist if the LIFE Study was not a community resource.