Archive for the ‘Works in Progress’ Category

Imagine a city where every child reads at grade level and returns to school in the fall prepared to start the school year where they left off. Imagine the impact on our community and economy when children are performing at or above grade level. Reading over the summer can prevent summer slide and bring all children closer to this goal. This is our vision.

The risk of summer slide – the loss of knowledge and skills learned during the school year – is a serious problem. We know that children who don’t read over the summer lose approximately two months of school progress. This loss is more common among boys, children in low resourced neighborhoods and children from low income homes. This loss is cumulative. Research shows this loss accounts for up to 80% of the achievement gap between low and high-income students.Image

This summer, a new community effort spearheaded by the Faye McBeath Foundation and joined by the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL), Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Recreation, Hunger Task Force (HTF), IMPACT Planning Council, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Metroparent,and others will get books into the hands of those who need them most. 

This commitment will stress the importance of reading in some of the hardest to reach areas of the city – places where poverty is widespread and most children receive their meals for the day at a Free Summer Meal Site. This effort will bring the library to them. It will ensure access to interesting and appropriate books, and provide adult guidance for selecting reading materials that interest children. Every child deserves this opportunity.

Starting June 23rd, Free Summer Meal Sites will begin serving thousands of free meals in parks and on playgrounds throughout the area. We know children who lack access to food also likely lack access to books. To meet this need, MPL will visit a different Milwaukee Recreation playground each day – Mitchell Park, Carmen Park, Merrill Park, Woodlands playground and Modrzejewski playground – Monday through Friday with library books, read alouds and book-related programs from 2:30 to 4:00 pm throughout the summer. Free books will be given to children who spend time reading at the sites. HTF will also distribute thousands more free books at other meal sites thanks to a donation from New Threads and United Way of Greater Milwaukee.

Reading is fundamental to success in school and life. With 43% of our city’s children living in poverty, we must all ask what we can do to help kids read this summer. Here’s how you can help:

Scott Gelzer, Faye McBeath Foundation; Paula Kiely, Milwaukee Public Library; Sherrie Tussler, Hunger Task Force; Nicole Agresano, United Way of Greater Milwaukee; Kathleen Pritchard, IMPACT

Note:  This piece was originally published as an Opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, on June 21st, 2014.  The photo is new to this post.  Photo credit Brooke VandeBurg.


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At the Planning Council, we are busy preparing for our Data Visualization conference- coming up October 10th.

Our upcoming event inspired me to try visualizing some of the information collected in our Safety Net Clinic reports, using Tableau Public 8.0.

Safety Net Data VizEdit

The third edition of the reports, released in May 2013, was split into two documents; the 2013 Safety-Net Clinic- Planning Resource Guide and 2013 Safety-Net Clinic Referral Directory.  The utilization and geographic information on the viz is a small but interesting piece from the Planning Guide.

Thanks once again to the clinic staff and volunteers for their contribution to Milwaukee, and for sharing their data.
NOTE: Looking at this map data on Tableau enables you to highlight different clinic types in neat ways- to get to the interactive version click here.

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[Note:  Intern Meghan Kirking reflects on her experience working at the Planning Council and talks about the Safety Net Clinic project on which she worked this fall].  Meghan Kirking cropped

As an intern at the Planning Council I have been exposed to a multitude of projects. Currently I am assisting with the data collection of the 2012 Safety Net Survey. According to the 2011 Safety Net Report, 46% of residents in Milwaukee County are either uninsured or enrolled in Medicaid or another state program. Thus the Safety Net Survey has been distributed to clinics in the Greater Milwaukee Area that provide healthcare services to the underinsured and uninsured populations.

The survey asks questions about each clinic such as:
• What population it serves;
• What services it offers; and
• Whether and how the clinic charges for services.

Once this information is collected, it is compiled into a report and the data is then distributed to government agencies, hospitals and funders. IMPACT 2-1-1 adds the report information to their database and uses it to direct Milwaukee residents to clinics that provide affordable services. For example, when someone is in need of a service, he or she can either call IMPACT 2-1-1 or visit IMPACT 2-1-1’s website. The caller then shares information including—but not limited to—zip code, age, and services needed. IMPACT 2-1-1 then gives the caller a list of nearby clinics that can provide the requested services.

Due to the positive response from previous inventories, the Planning Council is updating this report.  For example, according to Julie Siegel, a social worker at Froedtert, “The safety net clinic directory your agency puts out is a life saver. The supervisor sent it out to everyone and I keep it posted on the desktop of my computer to help families find health services. I just print them a page or two of a clinic that can help and they are so grateful.”

The new report will include more clinics and concise responses to increase its effectiveness at helping those in need find the healthcare services they want. By distributing the data throughout Milwaukee, such as to hospitals, the Safety Net Inventory will help relieve some of the stress that the underinsured and uninsured experience when looking for a clinic that offers the services they need at a price they can afford.  The Inventory also documents the effect safety net clinics have on decreasing emergency room visits by providing a place for people to seek medical help before going to the ER.

As an intern at the Planning Council and a student in the Exercise Physiology Department at Marquette University, I have found this project very beneficial in my studies. The Safety Net Survey has allowed me to learn more about the daily stresses that some residents in the Greater Milwaukee Area face, such as where to get quality healthcare that fits into their budget. Also, this project has helped me to learn about the measures clinicians in Milwaukee are taking to care for the underinsured and uninsured by volunteering their time at these clinics. As I continue my schooling to become an exercise physiologist, this project has emphasized to me the importance of getting a better understanding of the world my clients live in to help them live happier and healthier lives.

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Children experience anxiety, depression and other symptoms of mental health concerns which can affect academic performance, attendance and the likelihood of being suspended.  Once a need for mental health services beyond what the school offers is recognized there are still many barriers to access, including location, lack of transportation and stigma.  The School and Community Partnership (SCPMH) is a pilot program addressing these barriers at four school sites in Milwaukee.


To support improved youth mental health, school success and overall well being for Milwaukee Public School students, the School and Community Partnership for Mental Health is working to increase the number of students in MPS accessing mental health services.  We are doing this in two ways:

  • Bringing community providers into MPS schools;
  • Engaging community health workers to provide cultural links between families, schools and the providers to reduce stigma and other access barriers

We’re succeeding!  Parent follow-up to access mental health services when their child was referred to a community mental health provider before this project was estimated to be 5%.  Previously, only one in twenty students who was referred to a community mental health provider had parents who followed through and successfully navigated the system.  In our first year, follow-up from parents rose to 45% and in year two- the 2011-2012 school year— parent follow-up reached 60%.

What makes this project special?

  • We are providing families with access to mental health services whether students are eligible for insurance or not
  • We are ensuring communication between parents, teachers and therapists to build a network of support around a child
  • We are expanding the use of community health workers at our MPS pilot sites, who offer participants help in accessing the wider Milwaukee support systems

The School and Community Partnership for Mental Health will continue as a pilot program for the next two school years.  We have been lucky to be at four fabulous MPS sites: Audubon Middle School, Hopkins Lloyd K-8, O.W. Holmes K-8 and Wedgewood Middle School.  Thank you to our mental health providers at Aurora Family Services, Pathfinders and Sebastian Family Psychology Practice.

We also gratefully acknowledge the many funders of this project, including the Greater Milwaukee Foundation (Gertrude M. Speer Fund, ELM II Fund and Johnel Fisher Moore Fund), Milwaukee Public Schools (Safe Schools Healthy Students), the Faye McBeath Foundation, the Charles E. Kubly Foundation and the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

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Anyone who knows me knows I am NOT an athlete, but today, along with nearly 500 other students and coaches, I learned what it means to live like a high-performing athlete.  As part of my work coordinating the Alliance for Wisconsin Youth-Southeast (AWY-SE), a seven-county drug prevention “uber-coalition,” I helped bring John Underwood, founder of the Life of an Athlete program, to our area, and the event he spoke at today was one of the most inspiring I have ever attended in my 30-year career.

At our event, Mr.Underwood spoke at length about the affects of alcohol and marijuana on athletic performance.  The students in attendance, who represented around 20 schools throughout southeastern Wisconsin, paid rapt attention as he displayed images of brain scans of athletes under the influence of alcohol, statistics on how alcohol affects athletic performance, and data on the percentage of high school athletes who drink (close to 98%).  Over lunch, the students worked with their coaches and teammmates to create action plans for their schools to strengthen athletic codes of conduct and create a sense of shared accountability and responsibility that support enforcement of the codes by students and coaches alike.  

All of that was great, but for most of the people in the room, the defining moment came at the end of the day when Mr. Underwood asked the students to show their leadership by coming forward and sharing something they learned during the event. It took a moment for the first student to step to the podium, but soon there was a LINE of students waiting to speak. To my amazement, three of the young people who came to the microphone admitted that they had consumed alcohol. The room was absolutely silent as they said they realized they were letting their teams down by partying and drinking. One shared that a teammate had called him out on his drinking and made him tell the coach. The student said telling his coach was very hard and he resisted at first. But then he realized it was the right thing to do, and from the podium he thanked his friend for getting him back on the right path. The applause in the room was huge as this young man acknowledged his teammate with an embrace, and I saw more than a few people surreptitiously wipe a drop from the corner of their eyes.

I am so glad I have a job that lets me be a part of moments like this.  I know this event helped many committed, serious student athletes realize they can be leaders in their schools and turn around expectations so that the kids who party become the minority.  If you would like your school to get involved in Life of an Athlete, check out the AWY-SE web page http://atoda-sewisconsin.wikispaces.com/Life+of+an+Athlete or John Underwood’s Facebook site http://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Athletic-Institute-Life-of-an-Athlete/157110224306768 .

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Substance use prevention efforts attempt to provide youth with information, skills, and environments to avoid or delay the use of alcohol and other drugs. The Prevention Network of Washington County, staffed by the Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (http://councilonaoda.org/), is a community coalition which coordinates efforts to prevent youth high risk behavior. The Prevention Network is funded in part by a federal grant from the Drug Free Communities Support Program (learn more at http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/dfc/index.html ).

Since 2005, the Planning Council has supported the Prevention Network in generating the data needed to meet the reporting requirements of this Drug Free Communities grant and to help them evaluate their efforts. For example, the Planning Council helped the Network develop a brief, easy to use survey of youth substance use and attitudes towards using (e.g., perceived risk of the use of different types of drugs). In addition, the Planning Council has analyzed the data from this survey, providing information forWashingtonCountyas a whole and information specific to the participating middle schools and high schools.

The data generated from these surveys has indicated decreased use of some substances over time (e.g., a decrease from 50% to 40% in the proportion of 12th graders who ever smoked tobacco). However, the data has also suggested that there is continued prevention work to be done, particularly in the area of alcohol use (e.g., approximately 10% of 7th graders and 50% of 12th graders had used alcohol in the 30 days prior to taking the survey). The Prevention Network has been able to use this information to obtain additional funding. In addition, the information has been helpful in galvanizing parents, community organizations, school districts, and law enforcement to further coordinate and support expanded prevention efforts. As we move forward, we’ll be continuing to assist the Prevention Network in evaluating their efforts in the community.

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Work is a precious commodity for everyone these days, but finding a job is nearly impossible for some groups. Right now youth, and particularly young people of color, are facing the lowest employment rates recorded since the end of World War II. One bright spot in the youth employment picture in Milwaukee is a new project being worked on by the Planning Council, Jericho Resources, Inc. and the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB) to map area youth employment opportunities.

This youth community mapping project will help MAWIB identify effective practices that span education, employment and training, youth development and services that help transition youth from school to adult life.  To accomplish this, the Planning Council and Jericho Resources, Inc. will be canvassing local youth-serving agencies and employers asking about their youth employment programs. Youth and service providers will also participate in focus groups to provide a more detailed picture of the youth employment landscape in the area. This information will be used to create a database and maps that will be accessible to all Milwaukee area youth and parents.

Young people need access to this type of information if they are going to beat the odds and find a job, since they are the group experiencing the highest levels of unemployment.  According to Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies, the most severe drops in joblessness during the past decade (2000-2010) were experienced among those 30 and under, with teenagers (16-19) faring by far the worst.

“The employment rate of the nation’s teens fell by nearly 19 percentage points over the decade from nearly 46% to just under 27%. Male teens fared worse than their female counterparts (a 20.6 percentage point decline in the male employment rate versus an 18.0 percentage point drop for women).”  — The Steep Decline in Teen Summer Employment in the U.S., 2000-2010 and the Bleak Outlook for the 2011 Summer Teen Job Market, , April 2011, p 3; http://www.nyec.org/content/documents/The%20Steep%20Decline.pdf 

In metro Milwaukee, the picture is even worse, particularly for African American youth. In 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available) a staggering 69.2% of metro Milwaukee’s African American young males ages 16-24 were jobless, according to a report by Mark V. Levine of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development.  Levine says This is the highest jobless rate among working age black males ever recorded in Milwaukee, and a substantial increase from 2008, when the rate was an already shocking 47.1 percent.”  — The Crisis Deepens:Black Male Joblessness in Milwaukee 2009; http://www4.uwm.edu/ced/publications/blackjoblessness_2010.pdf

Projects such as the MAWIB youth community mapping project aim to turn around these statistics for the neediest youth inMilwaukee.  The final report will be posted on the Planning Council’s website in October 2011.

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