May is Mental Health Awareness Month—a time to raise awareness of the mental illness and provide support for those struggling with a mental health condition. As a member of the mental health committee, I heard countless stories from Wisconsinites about their struggles and triumphs with mental health during this session. This May is a great time to recognize our state’s essential investments to ensure mental health care is accessible to all Wisconsinites who need it. Our investments include targeted support for populations with an uptick in mental health conditions, such as farmers and our youth.
Rising stress levels among farmers have highlighted the importance of helping the agriculture sector navigate financial challenges, access healthcare, and improve work-life balance. Republicans have responded by funding the Farmer Wellness Program, supporting counseling for immediate and long-term mental health needs, encouraging peer support, and offering farmers business resources and training. Our investments in this program are designed to provide farmers with the resources to thrive.
Mental health concerns are also rising among students. School closures and isolation accelerated the already increasing levels of anxiety and depression among our youth. That’s why we made substantial investments in mental health services for our students. The Legislature doubled funding for the mental health categorical aids at our K12 schools, which provide social work services directly to students at school.
We also invested $7 million in mental health collaboration grants, which help schools partner with community organizations to provide critical mental health services to students. Previous grants in this program have helped hundreds of schools arrange services for students throughout the state. Now more than ever, our kids need the critical services facilitated through these funding sources.
However, the growth of mental health conditions goes beyond these two populations. Our budget added nearly $24 million in mental health spending over the biennium through increased reimbursement rates to healthcare providers. These funds work to ensure all Wisconsinites can access critical mental health care.