Our History 1930-2011

As Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MHA) celebrates 80 years of service to the Milwaukee-area community and the State of Wisconsin, we would like to highlight some of the remarkable accomplishments our organization has been a part of for the last eight decades. Innovative programs have been the benchmark of MHA's success.

In order to meet the ever-changing needs of the community, MHA is continually re-evaluating its programs while continuing to address the organization's mission. Today, our mission remains to improve the mental health of all individuals through advocacy, education and service.

1930's

The MHA reported that hospitals at Mendota and Winnebago were overcrowded and understaffed. It described county asylums as little more than custodial institutions. These concerns led to efforts to reorganize hospital services and improve admitting procedures.

1940's

The MHA responded to war-related stresses in both the civilian and military populations. It applauded steps such as the creation of a National Mental Health Institute.

1950's

The MHA helped parents learn how to nurture mental health in their young children. It introduced the idea of establishing halfway houses for persons recovering from mental disorders.

1960's

The MHA developed halfway houses to ease the transition from the hospital to the community. The Mental Health Foundation was established for the study of mental illness and promotion of mental health.

1970's

The MHA recruited volunteers to staff phones lines for psychiatric emergencies, organized a group of parents of troubled children, and trained bartenders to provide basic counseling services.

1980's

The MHA hosted a hearing on the mental health needs of ethnic and racial minorities, monitored public policy issues such as treatment of persons with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system, created more support groups, and addressed problems including homelessness and teen suicide.

1990's

MHA, along with a number of other community agencies, founded the Grand Avenue Club, which provides programs for people recovering from serious mental illnesses. The MHA purchased a building to house the club and raised $1.1 million to pay for it. The MHA also stepped up its efforts to meet mental health needs in the workplace, to work for violence prevention in the community, and to push for insurance coverage parity for mental diseases.

2000's

MHA changed its name from Mental Health Association to Mental Health America of Wisconsin. MHA has also expanded to become a statewide agency through development of the Office of Public Policy in Madison, the addition of staff in the northern part of the state to provide suicide prevention training and the website's expansion to include statewide resources for every county in the State of Wisconsin.

MHA's Public Policy Office was intensely involved in the passage of the Mental Health Parity Bill as well as other significant mental health legislation.

MHA developed the Strong Families Healthy Homes Program (comprised of the Invisible Children's Program and the Specialized Family Resource Center).

MHA also went GREEN in the 2000's. MHA has made tremendous advancements in the way the organization delivers information from paper newsletters, brochures, and invitations to e-newsletters, e-invites and a website that now receives more than 13,000 hits each month.

MHA developed various resource guides that are used as a primary source of information for many Milwaukee area and state community organizations including the Mental Health, Wellness, and Addiction Services Resources Directory, the Support Groups Directory, and the Therapist Directory.

Through its management of state and federal grants, MHA has been the leader in suicide prevention in Wisconsin, contributing to a 45% reduction in youth suicides and leading to the development of Prevent Suicide Wisconsin (Previously the Suicide Prevention Initiative), a coalition of organizations that has now launched a website and has its own logo and branded materials.

MHA has developed strong relationships with area Veterans organizations including Dryhootch and will continue to collaborate with those groups moving forward.

Moving forward, MHA will continue to stamp out stigma by improving the mental health of all individuals through advocacy, education, information and service.