The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health has announced 14 awards totaling $2.7 million to community organizations and researchers to address the ongoing health consequences and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight new awards totaling $1.6 million went to community organizations throughout the state that are addressing the pandemic’s impact on the social and emotional health of our state’s youth. Six new grants totaling $1.1 million were awarded to investigators at the School of Medicine and Public Health, UW-Madison School of Education, School of Nursing and College of Engineering to address the ongoing health challenges of COVID-19 in Wisconsin.

The new awards build upon Wisconsin Partnership Program’s initial COVID-19 Response Grant Program, bringing its total investment to more than $6 million in 44 grants to community partners and researchers to strengthen the resilience of Wisconsin families and communities, deepen understanding about COVID-19 and inform approaches to prevention and treatments.

COVID-19 response focus on adolescent social and emotional health grants

The Wisconsin Partnership Program's Oversight and Advisory Committee has announced eight new awards of $200,000 each in COVID-19 Response grant funding to help community organizations address the profound toll the pandemic has taken on the social and emotional health of Wisconsin’s adolescents.

  • GSAFE: Supporting the Mental-Social-Emotional Health Needs of Black, Brown, Multiracial, Trans and Nonbinary LGBTQ+ Adolescents Impacted by COVID | Statewide
    • GSAFE, an organization working to create school communities where all LGBTQ youth and students thrive, has received a grant to deliver critically needed social-emotional supports to some of the most vulnerable adolescents in Wisconsin. This project aims to support BIPOC, Trans, Nonbinary LGBTQ+ adolescents impacted by COVID-19 through new programs and resources that expand pathways to youth leadership and increase educators’ ability to provide affirming and inclusive classrooms and schools.
  • La Crosse County: Supporting Youth through the La Crosse System of Care | La Crosse County, Wisconsin
    • A grant to La Crosse County will support an expansion and enhancement of the La Crosse System of Care (SOC) to address the social and emotional health of adolescents most impacted by the pandemic, specifically the community’s Black youth. The grant builds upon the La Crosse SOC, a partnership between the School District of La Crosse and County, intended to provide interventions and supports to keep youth mentally healthy, safe from abuse and neglect and prevent arrests for behaviors that are often rooted in mental health or other complex needs. With the addition of two part-time Community Cultural Liaisons contracted through a local, Black-led non-profit agency, Hope Restores, this project aims to create opportunities to connect meaningfully with youth impacted by COVID-19, increase culturally responsive services and train parents and caregivers on skills to support the social and emotional needs of their families.
  • Menikanaehkem: Growing Good People: Understanding Self and Resiliency | Menominee Reservation
    • Menikanaehkem, a grassroots organization based on the Menominee Reservation in Northeast Wisconsin, will use its grant to help build behavioral, social and hands-on skills for youth as they learn about their native language and cultures, and nature-based healing and resilience. This project promotes mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellness through practices that are traditional to the Menominee tribal people.
  • NAMI: A Call to Action: Compassion Resilience Training for Parents and Family Caregivers | Southeast Wisconsin
    • National Alliance on Mental Illness Southeast Wisconsin, Inc (NAMI SEWI), was awarded a grant to adapt and expand the capacity of the “Compassion Resilience Toolkit,” a resource for parents and caregivers supporting youth with mental health needs. In partnership with Rogers Behavioral Health, this project will establish caregiver groups and facilitator trainings, to create psychologically safe spaces for skill development and resilience building. As a result, parents and caregivers will have the tools to minimize compassion fatigue and increase their ability to support their children facing mental health challenges as they move through and beyond the pandemic. In addition, the team will partner with Milwaukee’s Core El Centro to recruit Spanish-speaking parents/caregivers to train as group facilitators.
  • Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers: Testing and Scaling Virtual and In-person Youth Group Therapy and Guardian Support Groups | Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, the largest provider of outpatient behavioral health services for families requiring bilingual care in Milwaukee, will engage a youth advisory council and community partners in the testing and scaling of group treatment options for youth, as well as corresponding support groups for parents and guardians. By leveraging successful in-person groups, Sixteenth Street is uniquely situated to investigate the effectiveness of the virtual group therapy model for youth, for which there is currently limited supportive evidence.
  • Urban Triage: Supporting Healthy Black Families Workgroups | Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • Urban Triage has received an award for a project to support Black youth who have been disproportionality impacted during the pandemic. Their project will expand its transformative educational workgroup model to include access to telehealth resources and establish a youth-centered Hip Hop Based Educational (HHBE) workgroup to promote healing, resilience, self-esteem and connection. It will also support Black youth by providing training for existing social and emotional healthcare providers in the community through its Co-Conspirator workgroups. The partners will evaluate the impacts of services on adolescent mental health and well-being to inform sustainability and replication of workgroups.
  • Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health: PATCH Youth Advocacy Fellowship for Social and Emotional Health | Statewide
    • Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health has received a grant to expand its successful Providers and Teens Communicating for Health (PATCH) Youth Advocacy Fellowship model to include a statewide group of young people ages 12-21. This project aims to empower youth to be advocates for themselves and their peers, offer a space to tell their stories, and value their experiences while also ensuring youth voice is present in existing and future adolescent social and emotional health initiatives.
  • YWCA Madison: Restorative Justice in Schools and Communities: Facilitating Healing, Support and Cultural Identity Affirmation for Young People | Dane County, Wisconsin
    • The YWCA in Madison will use its grant to support healing for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and marginalized youth who experienced trauma due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This project will focus on continuing, expanding and evaluating the YWCA’s partnerships within Madison/Dane County schools and communities to address the impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Response Research and Education Awards

The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s COVID-19 Response Research and Education Grant Program, through the Partnership Education and Research Committee, supports innovative research and education projects that address a wide range of ongoing health consequences of the pandemic. The newly awarded projects address the long-term consequences of COVID-19 among racial and ethnic minorities and vulnerable populations, testing and safety in schools, and basic science research. Grants are awarded up to $200,000 over one or two years.

Funded projects include:

  • Evaluating COVID-19 Response Efforts to Improve Health and Racial Equity in Milwaukee County
    • To improve health and racial equity in Milwaukee County, Sheri Johnson, PhD, Director of the UW Population Health Institute and associate professor at the Department of Population Health Sciences, and co-principal investigators Wajiha Akhtar, PhD, MPH, assistant director and associate scientist at the Population Health Institute and Paula Tran Inzeo, MPH, director of MATCH at the Population Health Institute are analyzing data relating to the county’s disbursement of COVID-19 funding in 2020. This project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of investments and distribution of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act federal COVID-19 funds by Milwaukee County, and further increase the effectiveness by implementing a racial and health equity framework.
  • Implications of COVID-19 on Service Delivery, Health, and Well-Being for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
    • Karla Ausderau, PhD, assistant professor, UW-Madison School of Education, Department of Kinesiology is using a COVID-19 Response grant to address significant health disparities and marginalization experienced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This project will elucidate the impact of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of people with IDD, evaluate current responses to address this impact and provide recommendations to guide service delivery to better meet the needs of this often-underserved population.
  • Responding to Dual Epidemics of COVID-19 and Overdose Among People Who Inject Drugs in Wisconsin
    • Rachel Gicquelais, PhD, assistant professor, UW-Madison School of Nursing, and co-principal investigator Ryan Westergaard, MD, PhD, MPH, associate professor, Department of Medicine, are using a COVID-19 Response grant to address the dual epidemics of COVID-19 and drug overdose. With a focus on rural Wisconsin residents, the goal of this project is to understand patterns of overdose risk, COVID-19 vaccine willingness and related attitudes and behaviors. Investigators will also test a novel mobile health intervention to support vaccine uptake in people who inject drugs.
  • Safe and Healthy Schools (SHS)
    • For the project Safe and Healthy Schools, Ellen Wald, MD, department chair and professor, Department of Pediatrics, and co-principal investigator Shelby O’Connor, PhD, professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine are creating a comprehensive COVID-19 testing and surveillance strategy to keep Madison Metropolitan School district elementary students safe when in school by quickly identifying and distinguishing cases of COVID and cases of other non-COVID respiratory viruses, that commonly occur in the school setting. The goal of this project is to identify ways to improve upon the current statewide testing program for SARS-CoV-2 that requires a high number of resources and nasal swab techniques that are difficult to perform on many elementary school children. This project will additionally implement a policy to consistently enable a prompt return to schools.
  • The Role of Social Media and Community Advocates in Addressing the Health Consequences of COVID-19 in Black, Latinx and American Indian Communities
    • Carey Gleason, PhD, associate professor, Department of Medicine, and co-principal investigators Maria Mora Pinzon, MD, MS, assistant scientist, Department of Medicine, and Melissa Metoxen, senior student services coordinator at the Native American Center for Health Professions were awarded a COVID-19 Response grant for utilizing social media and community advocates to address health consequences of COVID-19 in Black, Latinx and American Indian communities. The overarching goal of this project is to continue disseminating accurate information created by community advocates through social media about COVID-19 and evaluate the effectiveness of social media messages on changing beliefs, attitudes, and adoption of behaviors related to COVID-19 and vaccination.
  • Widespread Protective Immunity Screening Against COVID-19 Using a Point-of-Care Serology-Profiling Biosensor
    • Filiz Yesilkoy, PhD, assistant professor, UW-Madison College of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering, and co-principal investigators Irene Ong, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Miriam Shelef, MD, PhD, associate professor, Department of Medicine are developing a user-friendly, cost-effective, point-of-care serology test for monitoring protective immunity against COVID-19. By developing this biosensor platform, investigators will be able to assess vaccination status, past-infection status and protective immunity to inform communities in Wisconsin of the risk of COVID-19.

The Wisconsin Partnership Program is a permanent endowment at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health,committed to improving health and advancing health equity through investments in community partnerships, education and research. It was established in 2004 through an unprecedented gift as part of the conversion of Blue Cross and Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a stock insurance corporation. To date, the Wisconsin Partnership Program has awarded more than 560 grants for $265 million to advance biomedical and population health research, promote healthcare and public health workforce development, and support community partnerships to improve health  and advance health equity.