When the Deerfield Community Center moved to a new site in Liberty Commons in 2019, its expanded space opened up a host of usage possibilities.

There’s now a much larger food pantry. There’s dedicated space for kids to gather after school, and rooms for seniors to gather for lunch, cards, BINGO and general socializing. There’s a welcoming large group space for local nonprofit groups to meet and that can be rented by community members for special occasions.

There is also an excess of modern, inviting new office space.

When Dane County Executive Joe Parisi visited Deerfield in February, he toured DCC’s new location.

Among the many thoughts Parisi heard from the center’s board and staff, was the potential to use some of DCC’s extra office space for new services such as bringing in a contracted mental health provider.

It was clear that DCC Program Manager Julie Schwenn was excited about the prospect of offering mental health services on-site, especially for youth.

The chance for that vision to become reality just took a step forward.

Dane County’s 2020 budget includes $500,000 to help neighborhood and community centers bring mental health programs into their facilities. This week, Parisi announced that the county has begun accepting proposals from centers like DCC to tap those funds to offer at their sites a mix of intervention and education. The latter would be to help reduce the stigma of community members seeking mental health help.

There is a specific population of kids that the county has in mind: those who haven’t accessed traditional behavioral or mental health services in the past, said a release this week from Parisi’s office.

“Our community and neighborhood centers see firsthand the effects of mental health challenges and trauma on our young people,” the release said. “By meeting youth where they already gather, we hope to bring important services straight to them and in a place they already feel comfortable. We are excited to enter into this next phase of our initiative and begin looking for partners that can help our youth access these mental health services.”

Neighborhood and community centers have until April 8 to apply for the new county funding.

We hope DCC applies and is chosen.

The center is already doing a great job of meeting a wide variety of local needs, as evidenced by its increasing number of participants across all of its program areas. We hope that if the county funds come through, they’re a catalyst for DCC to grow even further in its service to the Deerfield community.

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