MILWAUKEE – With mental health issues escalating for Milwaukee children, the Holton Youth and Family Center (HYFC), a hub for youth activities since 1989, has been renamed The STRONG MILWAUKEE Center. The building at 510 E. Burleigh Street is home to the STRONG Child & Adolescent Day Treatment Program and other mental health counseling services for individuals and families offered by Christian Family Solutions (CFS).
The renaming of the Holton building marks a significant shift to next-generation issues in the city of Milwaukee. Mayor Tom Barrett has proclaimed February 26, 2021 “STRONG MILWAUKEE Day,” recognizing the new STRONG MILWAUKEE Center as the only in-person day treatment center in the city for children between the ages of 5 and 14 who face significant behavioral and mental health issues. The proclamation will be read by members of the STRONG staff and representatives from the HYFC board at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon on February 26 at The STRONG MILWAUKEE Center.
“Just as the HYFC rallied the community to address youth crime issues in the 1990s, we’re rallying the community to treat children’s mental health issues,” says Dr. Ashley Schoof, STRONG Program Clinical Director. “We rely on referrals from schools, medical professionals, parents, or anyone who notices the symptoms of trauma or other underlying health issues. It’s important for the community to know that The STRONG MILWAUKEE Center is a place to heal and help children, thanks to the vision of the HYFC board of directors.”
In November CFS signed a five-year agreement to lease the HYFC. CFS remodeled the building and moved STRONG from its former location on the north campus of St. Marcus School, increasing its enrollment capacity from a census of 25 children to 60 children. Several other tenants continue operating youth-oriented programs in the building when day treatment is not in session.
The prolonged pandemic conditions of isolation and added stress in homes will have long-lasting effects on children, according to Dr. Schoof. Day treatment includes trauma-informed and culturally-sensitive therapy five days a week for an average of two to three months. Children spend three to four hours per day in group therapy, while individual and family sessions help reinforce the skills learned during group time. The family component has been particularly important during the pandemic, as many children have been attending school virtually at home, compounding any stress that may exist in the home environment.
Most of the children referred to STRONG receive services and transportation through Medicaid. The STRONG program is able to operate in Milwaukee thanks to generous donors and a network of community professionals who refer children into the program.
“We now count the board of directors of the Holton Youth and Family Center among our generous donors and friends,” says Dr. Schoof. “The Holton board understands that treating the effects of trauma and mental health issues is the next great challenge for Milwaukee. The STRONG MILWAUKEE Center will make that treatment accessible for more children, especially those underserved in the city of Milwaukee.”
According to the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health, communities must address the demand for mental health services. The consequences of not meeting this need lead to an increase in family conflicts, child abuse, and neglect; risk of suicide, homelessness, and substance use; out-of-home placement and juvenile detention; emergency room visits and hospital stays; and other costs associated with delayed intervention of mental health treatment. The OCMH is looking for ways to strengthen connections between behavioral health organizations, schools, and local community organizations to increase access.
The STRONG program accepts family or professional referrals and serves children with both commercial and state insurance. Inquiries and referrals can be made by calling the Christian Family Solutions referral appointment line at 800.438.1772.