Local Partners Launch Pilot Program to Address Youth Mental Health

    March 12th, 2022

    MANKATO—Local organizations have collaborated to create a pilot program to address youth mental health, launching this spring in Mankato Area Public Schools with funding by Greater Mankato Area United Way, Mankato Clinic Foundation and Mayo Clinic Health System.

    The full-time Youth Mental Health Navigator position aims to increase equitable access for youth and their families who need assistance connecting to mental health-related community services.

    The concept came out of Greater Mankato Area United Way’s conversations with community organizations in regard to escalating youth mental health needs in the area.

    “Mental health has long been a key issue in our region, and we have seen the needs grow dramatically, particularly in children,” said Elizabeth Harstad, United Way community impact director. “This initiative will allow school social workers to focus more of their valuable time and energy on their direct work as the Youth Mental Health Navigator helps connect children and families to local resources.”

    Greater Mankato Area United Way is providing $50,000, while the Mankato Clinic Foundation and Mayo Clinic Health System each have committed $12,500 to fully fund the position.

    “Addressing the mental health needs of kids is essential work for our schools, and the support from Greater Mankato Area United Way and community partners to help in these efforts is tremendous,” said Mankato Area Public Schools Superintendent Paul Peterson. “Partnerships like this communicate to our community that we are willing and able to work together and rally resources to improve the lives of our future generation.”

    “Mankato Clinic pediatricians have witnessed a rise in depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns in children and adolescents. The last two years have been very challenging and disruptive for children. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared a national emergency in children’s mental health,” said Dr. Katie Smentek, Mankato Clinic pediatrician and Mankato Clinic Foundation board member. “The Mankato Clinic Foundation saw a great need in our schools for a youth mental health navigator to help students access mental health and community services.”

    “Improving access to mental health services to children and teens is a great need in our community,” said Dr. Adam Anderson, Ph.D., L.P., Mayo Clinic Health System psychologist. “We are proud to support this vital initiative that will have such a positive impact on area youth.”

    Harstad credited the support of the community partners in launching the new position. “We thank both Mankato Clinic Foundation and Mayo Clinic Health System for being such generous collaborative partners in this initiative to increase youth access to mental health services through the community and school social workers. We also thank Mankato Area Public Schools for the collaborative support to implement this pilot,” she said.

    The community partners hope a successful pilot program will lead to expansion throughout Greater Mankato Area United Way’s service area of Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Nicollet and Waseca counties.