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Waiting for Help: Youth counseling wait times vary around NE Wisconsin

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Sep 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-17 22:03:38-04
  • Wait times vary for children and teens seeking counseling appointments in northeast Wisconsin, depending on where they live
  • There's an overwhelming need, a Green Bay area clinic manager said
  • In the video, hear what it's like to have to wait for an appointment when someone is ready to seek help

There have been highs and lows for Hanna Mertens.

Among the highs: She was crowned Miss Green Bay Area 2022.

Among the lows: Anxiety that affected her ability to attend school as a teenager, and the condition returned when she was a college freshman.

She sought counseling, but there was a wait time of about six weeks to get an appointment, she said.

"It was definitely harder knowing that I could see someone, but i just couldn't get there yet" due to the wait, Mertens said.

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Some children and teenagers around northeast Wisconsin who are seeking counseling are experiencing the same wait times, or longer, depending on where they live.

The wait time in Marinette County is six-to-eight weeks for County services, said Jessica Mosey, community services manager for Marinette County Health & Human Services.

In Manitowoc County, "We're hearing six-to-nine months," said Donna Firman, board president for NAMI Manitowoc County. NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In Green Bay, Family Services clinic manager Vicky Coppens said their wait time is about six weeks, and there is an overwhelming need.

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In the Fox Valley, Family Services clinic manager Brandon Franzke said the wait time is about one-and-a-half weeks.

Firman's guess at why the wait time is longer along the Lakeshore is a lack of staff.

"It's certainly not lack of people trying to do their best," Firman said.

For someone seeking counseling who is "...ready to go get help and they... know it's going to be a long wait, that slog feels like years," Firman said.

Solutions for someone facing a wait time

Mertens said a support system of family and friends helped her during the in-between time before she could see a counselor.

In Manitowoc, Firman said the hope is to put together a peer support group at Lincoln High School to ease the pressure for someone waiting for an appointment.

Mertens story could also offer hope to someone who is struggling.

Growing up, she said, she sometimes felt simply not good enough.

But she went on to wear a crown, and her platform as Miss Green Bay Area 2022 was mental health.

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Hanna Mertens was Miss Green Bay Area 2022; her platform was mental health.

"In my farewell post, I started it with, 'If you would have told 16-year-old Hanna that she'd be standing up here in front of all of these people talking about something that she struggled with so much, she never would have believed you,'" Mertens, now 24, said.

"So, I think just looking back to where I was at that point in my life, just to see how far I've grown is incredible."


If you or someone you know wants to talk to a counselor, you can dial 211 as a first step.