By Matt Martinez
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Three nonprofits are one step closer to receiving funds to provide mental health services to youths after receiving a recommendation from the Milwaukee Youth Council.
The Youth Council is made up of students and young people who represent aldermanic districts in the city. Its members meet regularly with community leaders, including the mayor and Common Council, to advocate for youth issues.
The council was allotted $63,916 to recommend for spending this year and its members chose three nonprofits to fund.
• Wisconsin Community Services – $30,000
• Milwaukee LGBT Community Center – $20,000
• Silver Spring Neighborhood Center – $13,916
Helping with trauma
The Silver Spring Neighborhood Center in Westlawn provides education, social development and food services to youths. Latasha Holt, the youth social development director at Silver Spring, said the center will use the money to continue services following a 10-week training session on trauma.
“We understand that kids now are going through trauma more than ever, being at home with parents who maybe don’t appreciate them or love them,” Holt said. “We knew they were going to come out of this pandemic with some kind of trauma.”
Holt said the course explains what trauma is and its effects. A counselor will be available to help attendees.
“We can talk about trauma, but then if we don’t know how to actually go get help for them … we’re not doing a good job at it,” Holt said.
The funds from the city would pay salaries for an on-site counselor and a facilitator to help bring more youths into the program so they can continue getting help past the 10-week session.
Holt said she hopes the sessions will help break the stigma behind seeking mental health assistance.
“Our youth are very vocal,” Holt said. “However, when it comes to trauma, they’re very silent.”
Expanding counseling for LGBT youths
The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center provides services to youths and older adults in the community. Associate Executive Director Natalie Zanoni said the center would use its $20,000 to expand its counseling services.
Zanoni said the center would be able to provide mental health services to about 60 individuals, including offering bilingual and alcohol/other drugs counseling if necessary.
“There’s a lot of barriers for LGBTQ youth getting the assistance and mental health specifically that they need,” Zanoni said. “It’s important to us that we keep offering it for free, and with as few barriers as possible.”
Wisconsin Community Services maintains a large behavioral health division that serves Milwaukee. Nichole Todd, administrator of the division of youth services, said one program helps people who have dealt with adversity from the justice system as well as people living with mental health struggles.
The funds from the city would go toward Wisconsin Community Services’ credible messengers program, which places counselors with youths 24/7 to provide guidance and mentoring.
“We’re here to be that trusted person in your life no matter what you’re going through,” Todd said. “We’re not going to drop you because the case is over, we’re not going to drop you because you screwed up … we’re going to be there for you.”
The credible messengers program is expected to assist 40 young people. The money from the city would provide salaries for newly hired staff.
“We shouldn’t be reacting to young people making mistakes,” Todd said. “We should be preventing it.”
Bill Arnold, the Common Council’s public information officer, said the recommendations must go through the Community and Economic Development Committee and then to the full council to be approved.