MHTTCs Implementing Change

MIC Stories: Wisconsin Mental Health Change Leader Academy

Featuring the Great Lakes MHTTC

MIC Stories (MHTTCs Implementing Change) feature technical assistance projects that had a significant impact on practice.

The Need

This project began approximately ten years ago as a collaboration between Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Great Lakes Region to reduce 30-day readmission rates to inpatient psychiatric hospitals.  Throughout each year, different county crisis services apply to participate in the program to learn about the NIATx model for process improvement, develop a change project and subsequently implement new strategies to achieve their goals.


The CLA trains change leaders in the NIATx model of process improvement: a structured, team-based approach to change management for organizations large and small.

Attendees learn how to select a change project, set a project aim, engage senior leaders and staff in the change process, and achieve measurable, sustainable improvements.

Following the CLA face-to-face workshop, participants commit to carrying out a change project back at their agency focusing on an area of their choosing.


Each Spring a new cohort of crisis responders, clinical supervisors of crisis programs, and/or county deputy directors participate in the CLA and finish in the Fall. The participants vary each year but on average, represent between 4-12 different counties.

The Wisconsin DHS sends a request for participation to all 72 counties and tribes. Those that are interested in participating are welcome to join. Their Change Leader has had to adapt virtually as well.  We ask that each county be able to participate in our kickoff meeting and Introduction to the Change Leader Academy. Each month they meet with a coach from the Great Lakes Region and attend monthly topical calls. At the end, they are asked to share their results during a fall meeting so others can learn from their success. 

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What We Did

In each cohort, they provide education on the NIATx model, how to develop a change project, how to implement small changes, and monitor results.  They also supply coaching throughout the 6-12 month project to answer questions, focus on changes, and offer suggestions.  


Each county has their own challenges but these challenges are not necessarily unique to them.  The change project helps each group to address items in their sphere of control that can have large impacts. While there may always be barriers, this project helps reduce barriers and build collaboration. 

What Changed?

Each year the readmission data is shared.  Many counties have seen a reduction in their readmission data however many have reduced other system barriers in their crisis system whether it be streamlining information, improving access to treatment, increasing diversion options and building relationship with stakeholders have all beeen valuable outcomes. 

A success story from this project is: Mental Health – NIATx: Easy and Powerful Process Improvement for Behavioral Health – UW–Madison.

Past CLA participants have led successful projects to:

  • reduce no-shows and wait times for appointments
  • increase admissions and retention in treatment
  • reduce 30-day hospital readmissions
  • improve hand-offs between levels of care
  • expand services

What's Next?

NIATx is used in many different avenues outside of this particular collaborative.  Our goal is to continue to share this valuable tool for process improvement throughout the behavioral health workforce. In addition, continue to share User Stories – NIATx: Easy and Powerful Process Improvement for Behavioral Health – UW–Madison and other was we utilize NIATx throughout the Great Lakes Region.

Lessons Learned

Never underestimate the power of small changes leading to large impacts.

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The Great Lakes MHTTC, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is located in Madison, WI and is housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies. The Great Lakes MHTTC provides high-value training and technical assistance targeted to local needs in IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, and WI. The goals of the Great Lakes MHTTC are to accelerate the adoption and implementation of evidence-based practices, heighten the awareness, knowledge, and skills of the workforce, develop strategies for delivering culturally-informed care with diverse practitioners, researchers, policy makers, family members, and consumers of mental health services, and increase access to publicly available, free of charge, training and technical assistance to the mental health field.

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