The “Year of Mental Health”: What That Means, How Much It Costs, and Who It Helps 

By Christina Lorey

February 3, 2023

While the past three years have been largely focused on physical health and COVID, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers used this year’s State of the State address to shift the focus to mental health.

“Doing what’s best for our kids has always been what’s best for our state,” Evers said, before a joint session of the Wisconsin State legislature in his late January State of the State speech. “And today, we can afford to do more.”

Wisconsin has a projected $7 billion budget surplus this year. Evers wants to use roughly $2 billion of it to increase funding for public schools, with the largest chunk ($500 million) going to mental health and behavioral support programs. 

Facts About the State of Mental Health

  • 18% of US adults have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
  • Mental disorders are among the most costly health conditions for adults 18-64, along with cancer and trauma-related disorders.
  • While 48% of whites with a mental health condition receive treatment in a given year, only 31% of Blacks and Hispanics and 22% of Asians do.
  • White Americans are more likely to die by suicide than any other ethnic group.
  • 50 to 75% of kids in the juvenile justice system meet the criteria for a mental health disorder.

One month into Wisconsin’s “Year of Mental Health”, we checked in with the Evers administration to find out who they’re helping, how much they’re spending, and what kind of results they’re seeing so far.

Kids Get Ahead

According to the American Behavioral Clinics (a group of Wisconsin-based mental health service centers), more than 10% of students feel sad daily and, as a result, can’t complete their homework. Evers is asking state legislators to approve $270 million to fund Kids Get Ahead, a program designed to get more mental health services in Wisconsin schools.

Veterans Mental Health

Evers also promised to continue supporting and improving veterans’ mental health programs. So far, his administration has followed many of the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission, which improved job training, public transit, and better healthcare for rural veterans.

Suicide and Crisis Hotline

After celebrating the immediate success of the Suicide and Crisis Hotline, which received 6,000+ calls in its first month of operation last year, Evers announced more funding for the 24/7 phone number. Anyone anywhere can dial 988 any time they are experiencing suicidal thoughts, a mental health crisis, or just need to talk with someone. 

READ MORE: This Wisconsin Woman Struggled with Her Mental Health for a Decade. Now, She Hides Little Hearts’ to Help Others.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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