Focus on Funding & Stigma During Mental Health Awareness MonthSubmitted: 05/07/2013
Story By Kailey Burton

RHINELANDER - Mental illness can be a tough topic to think about and deal with, but recent acts of violence like the shooting in Newtown have drawn more attention to the issue.

In May be recognize Mental Health Awareness Month. Governor Scott Walker said he wants to increase mental health spending by $30 million in his next budget. Some local advocates say that's a good start.

"Mental health is severely underfunded in this country. We don't have nearly enough caregivers, or professionals. There are no incentives to go into mental health care. I'd like to see all those things [change]," said Mick Fiocchi, the President of the Northern Lakes chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

Fiocchi says 20% of the population suffers from "severe mental illness"; that includes major depression, schizophrenia, and different forms of bi-polar disorder.

He'd like to see the increase in funding build a mental health support center in the Northwoods.

"Where people with mental health issues would be able to obtain services... like job support, peer support. And this could include not just people with severe mental illness, but it also could be military veterans who are dealing with PTSD. There are such facilities located in other parts of Wisconsin," he says.

Another goal Fiocchi would like to focus on during Mental Health Awareness Month, is breaking the stigma of mental illness. He says people around you are dealing with mental illness every day, and it's important to remember that like any other illness, mental illness CAN be treated.

The Northern Lakes chapter of NAMI meets every fourth Tuesday of the month, from 7 to 9 p.m. , usually in the community meeting room of the Rhinelander Goodwill Store.

On May 28, the guest speaker will be NAMI co-founder Bev Young she'll share her story and experiences of advocating for families with mental illness. That meeting will be at First United Methodist Church on Arbutus Street in Rhinelander.

NAMI also offers a support group the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m.

For more information call NAMI Northern Lakes at (715) 362-0423 or (715) 272-1294, or the Oneida County Mental Health Inter-Agency Council at (715) 369-6118.

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MINOCQUA - By the time most of us finish breakfast, we already start planning what to eat for lunch.

For some kids all around the world, that next meal sometimes never comes.

The Food for Kidz Minocqua committee will lend a helping hand to change that Saturday morning.

Lakeland Union High School's common area will transform into a full-blown assembly line.

Food for Kidz volunteers will pour and pack ingredients into plastic bags.

The goal is 175,000 packed meals.

Food for Kidz needs more volunteers by tomorrow to meet that goal.

"If you haven't experienced this, come out and try it and you'll go away with just a great feeling," said Food for Kidz co-chair John Breiten.

Kids and adults of all ages are welcome to walk in to volunteer.

The food packages will be shipped off to anywhere from Honduras to Mozambique.

Some special meals will be set aside and sent to local communities in the Northwoods.

"It's just a great, fun community event. I think the kids especially take something away that they are giving beyond themselves," said Food for Kidz sponsor and Lakeland Union High School Spanish teacher Karen Roerich.

Walk-in volunteers are welcome to attend either packing shift tomorrow morning.

The first shift is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The second shift is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

If you can't make it out to Lakeland Union High School Saturday, donations are always welcome.

Call John Breiten at 715-686-7570 for more info.

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Wild Instincts has helped rehabilitate wildlife across the state since 2011. Director Mark Naniot explained that with a growing need to help animals comes a growing need for space.

The Green Gift program uses funds from Cellcom's cell phone recycling program to fund green non-profit initiatives.

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Over 183,000 were cast statewide.

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Annual losses reached as high as 1-thousand in some years.

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