Madison’s $33M operating referendum framed as choice between austerity and investment | Local Education

Mental health

Since 2015, the Madison School District has partnered with community organizations on a program in elementary and middle schools to provide mental health services in schools.

The jointly funded Behavioral Health in Schools program is run in 16 schools this year and has added three to five schools per year since its inception, said Jay Affeldt, executive director of student and staff support.

About 15 to 20 students in each school, who have significant mental health needs but limited access to help outside of school, receive support in school buildings from clinician therapists with Catholic Charities of Madison and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Jay Affeldt


The program is partially funded through district dollars, reimbursement from health insurance companies and a grant from UW-Madison. But the grant money expires after this school year, Affeldt said, creating a $225,000 gap in maintaining the program in the 2021-22 school year and hampering the ability to expand it.

If the operating referendum fails, Affeldt said it would be up to the discretion of the School Board on whether they would want to reallocate money to fill the gap left by the expiring grant.

“We’re continuing to look for grant opportunities,” he said. “At this point, we don’t have a great potential funding source that we think can sort of jump right in with the right timeline to maintain services.”