In August 2018, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS) began to fundamentally redefine our approach for improving the health and well-being of children, youth and families. After being selected as one of eight organizations chosen by Lutheran Services in America to participate in the organization’s Results Innovation Lab, LSS has applied the practice of results-based leadership to demonstrate improvement in the lives of thousands of people.
Coming into the Lab, we chose to focus on a new pilot program: School Centered Mental Health (SCMH). This pilot program builds on LSS’ long history of providing mental health services to children in schools. The new pilot program is a comprehensive model that utilizes a trauma-informed team approach to proactively engage the child and their family through aligned services provided in the home, school and community. Through the SCMH model and results-based leadership framework, we can do our part to achieve a whole-population result and help all Wisconsin children in grades K–12 be successful academically and as they transition into adulthood.
In Wisconsin, 78 percent of students overall meet the level of “proficient” for reading and comprehension in the third grade. However, a different story emerges when data is disaggregated. Only 65 percent of economically disadvantaged students, 64 percent of Hispanic students, 61 percent of students with limited English proficiency (LEP) and 46 percent of African-American students are at a third-grade level of reading proficiency. In reviewing these statistics, it is undeniable the system works for some students, but not for all.
As we began implementing our new SCMH model to help meet the needs of our community, we quickly realized we would need to impact state policy to create a long-term sustainable funding stream capable of supporting our efforts. So, we formed the Partners of Change (PoC) committee comprising a group of individuals, community organizations, schools, coalitions, funders, community leaders and healthcare organizations committed to improving children’s mental health in Wisconsin. The concepts and theories learned in the Lutheran Services in America’s Results Innovation Lab supported LSS in building and strengthening the committee. The Theory of Aligned Contributions and emphasis on keeping our results at the center of the work allowed us to identify partners across sectors, and provided a framework for engagement and mutually supportive action.
Since that first meeting in September 2018 when we introduced our pilot program and population-level results, the committee has grown from 15 community members to over 40. With growth came several adaptive challenges, including addressing a culture of competition in our community around funding for mental health services that historically has resulted in organizational silos. LSS was committed from the beginning to eliminating these silos and bringing people together for one result that improves the lives of all children in Wisconsin.
PoC has an established policy agenda focused on increased funding for SCMH services through changes to Medicaid reimbursement and setting a standard for care that makes SCMH comprehensive services common practice. Recently, PoC accomplished its first policy initiative and succeeded with other partners in removing a sundown date for Medicaid reimbursement of clinical consultation with school staff, allowing providers to bill for the supports they often already provide. Lifting the sundown date has provided an opportunity for providers to work collaboratively with schools to serve an estimated 350,000 students in Wisconsin.
By September 2020, LSS and our partners strive to achieve a 5 percent increase in the level of third-grade reading proficiency for economically disadvantaged, Hispanic, limited English proficiency and African-American students. This will result in an additional 1,300 economically disadvantaged students, 308 Hispanic students, 270 limited English proficiency students and 270 African-American students who will read at grade level and remain on track to graduate from high school – a total of more than 2,000 additional students in Wisconsin.
Everyone in PoC has a role to play in achieving this goal. Together, we will ensure all children and families in Wisconsin have access to culturally appropriate, comprehensive and preventative mental health services that create a partnership between schools and families to prepare Wisconsin’s children for success in the classroom as students, and out in the world as adults.
For further information about Lutheran Services in America’s Results Innovation Lab, contact Sheila Weber at (202) 499-5824.