STRONG Milwaukee fundraiser hopes to expand services to 100+ kids on waitlist

MILWAUKEE — Since opening its doors in early 2021, the STRONG Milwaukee Center has been inundated with referrals for children in need of its mental and behavioral health services.

“Kids are dealing with more nowadays,” said Jodie Martens, a school-based counseling program supervisor with Christian Family Solutions.

Martens, who oversees counselors based inside nearly 20 Milwaukee schools, says they’ve begun to notice an alarming trend in younger kids.

“What we are seeing that is the most concerning is younger kids that are actually harming themselves,” said Martens. “Research shows the risk between kids who engage in self-harm behavior have an increased risk of suicide later on in their life.”

That’s where STRONG Milwaukee comes in. After further assessment, counselors can choose to refer those students to the center for more in-depth treatment.

“They are feeling a lot of sadness, anger, a lot of frustration,” said Martens.

The demand is so high that more than 100 kids have ended up on the center’s waitlist. That’s why they’re planning to hold a gala on Sept. 29 to raise the funds they need to expand their reach before it’s too late.

“If the funding isn’t there, the resources aren’t there. If they are there, that’s at least a step in connecting people to the treatment and the help that they need,” said Gena Orlando, the Wisconsin area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We can then expand programs. We can offer more groups per day, we can develop programs for different age kids, so we can definitely serve more kids,” said Martens.

If you’d like to help, you can purchase tickets for the Strong Milwaukee Gala from now until Sept. 22.

Visit STRONG Milwaukee’s website to register for the event.

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