A Milwaukee Family Foundation Gives Big for Mental Health

The Kellben Foundation has been around for a while. Founded in 1983, it's the kind of small, nose-to-the-ground family foundation that often goes unnoticed by the rest of the philanthropic world. But knowing about these small, often more transparent funders can go a long way towards getting a real comprehensive, filled-in picture of the grants that might be available in your area. It’s worth knowing about the small frys, in other words, especially when they’re at work in your city.

The Kellben Foundation’s stomping ground is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its assets are in the tens of millions ($22 million in 2013, to be exact) and they typically give around $1 million per year to a range of performing arts, education, and health care causes. It gives out a lot of scholarships. This year, it's making waves with a sizeable gift to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin: $3 million to establish a Community Mental Health Initiative. It’s designed to make big improvements to the city’s mental health infrastructure, specifically, the system families and children access when they need mental health services.

With this boost in funding, several new mental health professionals will come to practice at the Children’s current health clinics at the COA Goldin Center, the Northside YMCA, and the Next Door Foundation. Additionally, training will be provided to staff at the Boys and Girls Club, so they can better respond to the mental health needs of the children within their programs.

“Access to mental health services is as important as access to physical health care specialists, and the intent of this initiative is to improve access for families by providing mental health professionals embedded in the neighborhoods most in need, and also to streamline and simplify the processes involved in seeking mental health services,” said Mary Kellner, Ed.D. “Partnering with MCW and with Children’s Hospital and working with community organizations is an important step in establishing better mental wellness in Milwaukee,” she added.

Mary Kellner has more than 20 years of counseling experience, and her daughter, Kristin Kellner Schultz, Ph.D., serves of the board of Mental Health American of Wisconsin. So you might say that mental health services are a sort of pet interest of the foundation’s founding family. “We are profoundly grateful to the Kellner family for their commitment and dedication,” said Peggy Troy, CEO, Children’s Hospital. “We are thrilled to launch this endeavor to provide increased access and appropriate mental health services to children and families. We know psychological distress can have an impact on physical health. The longer children and families wait to receive adequate and appropriate treatment, the more staggering the costs become, both emotionally and physically.”