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Anonymous donor gives $3 million to help local nonprofit address youth mental health crisis

The Washburn Center for Children says the "transformational" gift will help in two major ways.

MINNEAPOLIS — One of the biggest providers of outpatient mental health support for children in the Twin Cities has just received one of the biggest donations in its 137-year history.

The Washburn Center for Children received a $3 million gift from an anonymous donor with no strings attached.

"The only thing that we heard from the person was thanks for what you're doing and keep up the good work," said Craig Warren, CEO of the Washburn Center for Children. "We were doing happy dances all around the building that day because the work is so hard right now and we have so much respect and regard for our clinicians who are out there supporting kids and families in our communities. To have someone who didn't even want to be acknowledged on that scale, and see that work... that just kind of fills your heart with joy that someone sees what you're doing and the impact and is there with you. That kind of lifts up your wings as you're dealing with supporting kids and families that are dealing with some very challenging circumstances." 

Washburn has three locations that provide outpatient day treatment programs for kids in need of mental health, and other emotional and behavioral support. The nonprofit also has professionals who meet in the community and others working inside more than 30 schools. 

Warren says the nonprofit plans to use the donation in at least two specific ways. First, they'll use it to subsidize more of the costs for families who struggle to afford care or co-pays.

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"With increased inflation, families might face a choice between basic necessities or paying the premium, or the co-pay, for mental health services," he said. "We want to make sure that economics are not a barrier to your child or your family."

Warren says they also plan to use the money to help recruit and retain staff.

"It's a very challenging time for anyone who is a mental health professional. The demand has increased, not just for kids but for anyone who is providing mental health services," he said. "We're seeing the severity and the complexity of the cases just be more intense, and because of that, kids and families are needing to be in care for much longer... so there are challenges around recruiting folks into the field and then retaining people in the field with the demands of that."

Legislation that would have provided more funding for youth mental health day treatment programs fell short at the state capitol in the spring. Since then, Warren says yet another local provider has closed, putting even more pressure on Washburn's waitlist, which already fluctuates between 600-700 hundred kids and families. 

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