School-Based Mental Health Counseling Is Working in Marathon County

Written by Aaron Ruff Hannah Schommer

Students in Marathon County are getting the mental health support they need through school-based mental health counseling.

Thanks to the work of the Marathon County School-Based Counseling Consortium (MCS-BCC) — comprised of public school districts, mental health clinics, and community organizations — students in all Marathon County public school districts have access to mental health counseling services during the school day.

stressed person

Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of Bridge Community Health Clinic and Co-Chair of the MCS-BCC, shared:

“Addressing youth mental health in our community is not a one-entity responsibility. We brought all of the needed resources, perspectives, and voices to the table to build and deliver a collaborative system for school-based mental health in Marathon County.”

MCS-BCC’s school-based mental health system has a 3-part model:

  1. Provide affordable, direct, mental health counseling services to students in Grades K–12
  2. Provide training for school staff (teachers, administration, nurses, social workers, psychologists, custodians, paraprofessionals) on school-specific mental health topics
  3. Provide education for parents and youth on mental health topics and related resources

Through these efforts, the MCS-BCC is changing the culture of mental health in schools.

Stop the Stigma of Mental Health Problems

By institutionalizing school-based mental health, it’s now normal for a student to miss class to go to an in-school therapy session. Parents no longer have to take off work and drive their child to a special clinic for services, which saves them both time and money.

All school-based mental health counseling services are billed through the family’s health insurance. Starting in January 2020, funding provided by United Way of Marathon County will be available for uninsured and underinsured students, eliminating a significant barrier to mental health care for many students and families.

During the first year of these county-wide services — the 2017–2018 school year — 213 students were reported to have received onsite mental health counseling in Marathon County schools. During the 2018-2019 school year, over 500 students were reported to have received services, and some mental health clinics are still tabulating their final numbers.


According to the 2017–2018 MCS-BCC impact report, students who utilize school-based mental health counseling say that it works.

The 2018–2019 data hasn’t been officially published yet, but here are some supporting statistics that point to the program’s success:

K–3rd Grade

  • 77% of students said they feel better now than before counseling.
  • 69% of students said counseling is helping them with their family and friends.

4th–12th Grade

  • 75% of students said they have learned to better communicate their thoughts and feelings.
  • 69% of students said they feel better about their life now than before counseling.
  • 73% of students said counseling is helping them do better in school.

What did students find most helpful about school-based counseling? Here’s a sampling of comments offered:

“It gives me hope on finding myself. I feel much better than those years in Junior High.”

“I felt comfortable sharing and talking about what I needed help with.”

“I always knew someone was there to listen and try to understand me.”

“My counselor lifted my spirits about living and me being a good person. She acknowledged me.”

Access to mental health services in Marathon County schools is critical to the success of youth in our community.

According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey:

  • 45% of middle school students & 43% of high school students reported having problems with anxiety.
  • 23% of middle school students & 26% of high school students reported feeling depressed.

Helpful data dashboards for Marathon County youth have been created online for middle school and high school, if interested in exploring further statistics.


According to Smith:

“By working on trouble spots for these students as early as possible, and building resilience, school-based mental health counseling is an investment in our youth and an ongoing investment in a healthier community.”

The MCS-BCC partners — broken down by participating schools, medical health providers, and community organizations — are listed below.


  • Abbotsford School District
  • Athens School District
  • Colby School District
  • C. Everest School District
  • Edgar School District
  • Marathon School District
  • Mosinee School District
  • Rosholt School District
  • Spencer School District
  • Stratford School District
  • Wausau School District
  • Marathon County Special Education

Mental Health Providers

  • The Achieve Center
  • Bridge Community Health Clinic
  • The Caring Tree
  • The Center for Human Development
  • The Centre for Wellbeing
  • Charis Counseling
  • Compass Counseling
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Consulting
  • Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
  • Elmergreen Associates
  • North Central Health Care
  • Peaceful Solutions Counseling
  • Wausau Police Department

Community Organizations

  • United Way of Marathon County
  • Marathon County Health Department
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • Prevent Suicide Marathon County

If you would like to explore therapy services at school for a child, please contact the student’s school counselor or the student’s teacher. They can refer the student to an on-site licensed mental health counselor.

Parent(s)/guardian(s) will be notified to give permission to initiate services by completing a Release of Information form. This form lets the child’s therapist talk to school sta­ff and share information.

More information on the consortium can be found in the MCS-BCC impact report or in Karyn Powers’s earlier WI Central Time NEWS article regarding the start of this county-wide program.

aaron_ruffAaron Ruff

Public Health Educator  |  Marathon County Health Department

Aaron Ruff is a Public Health Educator with the Marathon County Health Department and President of CWOCC. You can find him aboard a bike on his way to work, at a Wausau Wheelers group ride, or on the mountain bike trail.  Email Aaron Ruff.

Hanna SchommerHannah Schommer

Public Health Educator  |  Marathon County Health Department

Hannah Schommer is a Public Health Educator at the Marathon County Health Department. She serves as the liaison for the Marathon County School-Based Counseling Consortium, maintaining clear communication and coordinating the coalition structure and activities.  Email Hannah Schommer.

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Image credits:
Stressed person image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay.
Mental health stigma image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay.