Schools provide help finding mental health services

Oconto Falls district partners with Care Solace referral program
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

When a mental health crisis strikes, finding help can seem like running through a labyrinth.

A new service that launched in the Oconto Falls School District this month helps families connect with mental health services in the community in an effort to break down barriers for those services.

“Navigating the mental health system can be tough, and sometimes it’s difficult for us to find the right services a family needs,” said Terri Olsen, direct of pupil services and special education. “How do we help families get through to the help they or their loved one needs?”

Oconto Falls grew interested in the program after CESA 8 called it to local districts’ attention, and school offices met with a representative from Care Solace last summer, Olsen said.

Caitlin Payne, school psychologist, was familiar with the service having come to Oconto Falls from the Marinette school district, which was already partnering with the organization.

“We support students as well as we can, but sometimes a family needs more,” Payne said. “Care Solace fills in the gaps we can’t provide.”

The Oconto Falls district already has partnerships with Bellin Health and Oak Ridge to provide mental health services for students and staff, which account for perhaps 40% of the need, Olsen said. Care Solace works with all systems and can refer families and students to those two systems but many others, she said.

The partnership with Care Solace also is being made available to community members in general by visiting

The organization works with providers and insurance companies to direct people to comprehensive services, with no cost for the navigational help, Payne said.

“You don’t have to work through the school system, but we’re happy to help,” Olsen said.

The idea is to take away some of the pressure of researching local mental health resources at a time of urgent need.

“Someone in a mental health crisis or their parents have enough going on without having to deal with all the paperwork, making the phone calls,” Payne said, “Care Solace is about taking away that added stressor.”

The crisis can be as serious as suicidal thoughts, stress about academics or stress about something that’s happening in their family, she said.

“We talk to kids; we run some small groups to deal with these issues, but sometimes what we’re doing is not enough,” Payne said.

The referral service is confidential. The school system gets statistics about how many people are using Care Solace but not details of the individual cases, Payne said.

The district is committed to ensuring that students, families and the community have access to mental health care, as well as trying to remove some of the stigma attached to needing help with mental health, Olsen said.

“It’s OK to seek help to get through this,” she said.