Viterbo, BGC and the Y come together to offer mental health resources in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Viterbo University, the Erickson Boys & Girls Club in La Crosse and the La Crosse Area Family YMCA have come together to improve the mental health of people in our community.

The three groups are working together to bring mental health programs to the Y and BGC after-school programming.

Mental Health intern and BGC Northside Youth and Family Services Director, Justice Lawson, was a part of the development and implementation of materials.

“Listening to someone speak about mental health is one thing, but actively working to learn, practice, and improve on your own mental health awareness is completely different. This was what we were asking youth to take on and something I was being challenged to do as well for my own learning,” says Lawson. “By meeting them where they were, I was helping to further create that space for growth and learning that they needed to address their mental health.”

The Y began developing brief videos and skill sheets called Dinner Table Resilience series last year as a way to support the community’s mental health. Each video focuses on a coping skill and challenges viewers to share their reflections on the content with people they love.

This spring, counselors-in-training under the supervision of  Tara Allert, Viterbo Counselor Education and Supervision Doctoral Student, and Sarah Johnson, the Y Mental Health Director, began developing and piloting materials adapted from the series during after-school programming at the Y and the BGC.

“As the partnership with the Y evolved, we were also lucky enough to extend this collaboration to the Erickson Boys & Girls Club. These agencies and key staff supports have shown a willingness to jump into innovative work which is facilitating community resilience and a shared dialogue about mental health,” says Allert.

The materials and collaboration have been supported by Better Together, an 8-year project focused on improving youth mental health, supported by The Advancing a Healthier Community Endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Project Coordinator Beth Thier shares, “It’s powerful when community partners from different organizations unite together for a common purpose, in this case, improving the mental health of our youth. So much of what we are working to do within the walls of a single organization can benefit from community partner engagement. One organization might have a strong mental health advocate and another organization might have excellent community connections—when these organizations combine their strengths, good outcomes are truly possible for those they wish to serve. We have seen the same of our generous funders in this community. We can go farther together than we can alone.”

Mental Health Director for the Y Johnson adds, “This work by our incredible team of interns is an excellent example of how we can come together to normalize mental health and build effective coping skills. We are excited to be expanding our partnerships towards creating a community that is connected, healthy and resilient. Much more to come from us on how to join us in this Mental Health Revolution!”

To learn more about mental health and the Dinner Table Resilience series, visit