History of the Programs


Legislation starting 51.42 boards in counties across Wisconsin in 1973.  This legislation, also known as Chapter 51, mandated all 72 counties to provide services to people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, or alcohol and other drug addiction problems.  These programs were funded directly by county “Unified Board” agencies, which was a part of county government, directly under the full county board of supervisors.  The State of Wisconsin also provided significant amounts of “seed” money, as well as ongoing funding, for county governments to fund these programs.  The first Unified Board Director in Marquette County was Amelia Wolvin, who had that position until 1997.
Prior to that time county governments were responsible for paying for inpatient hospitalizations, or other institutional placements, of residents who were disabled, or who were temporarily unable to function on their own.  As these hospital and institutional costs doubled, tripled, quadrupled, thereby burdening county governments severely, the state legislature enacted this law to create the local Unified Board to develop and administer services, in the community for county residents, so as to reduce the needs for placement in high cost, restrictive institutions.   
This legislation was “popular” across the state, due to a growing recognition of the need to stabilize and focus public budgets, meet expanding legal demands, and address basic  human concerns.
Over a 35 year period since this legislation has been enacted many of the goals established in the 51.42 legislation have been met, or the situation much improved.  For instance, placements of persons with mental health problems in hospitals has been significantly reduced.  In 1975, Marquette County had 1500 days per year of placement of people.  In recent years these placement days have been reduced to about 200 days per year.  Consider this in today’s dollars:  In 2009 a day in the hospital costs the county $1000.


Marquette County started the contract with Community Services Associates, Portage, Wisconsin (Larrabee’s group), to provide services in the community for people who have mental illness.  At the same time the county contracted with Hope Haven (Catholic Social Services, Madison) to provide AODA services.  Developmental disability programming was provided through contract with a workshop; case management, and placement services were provided directly by the Unified Board, with much of the work with clients and families performed by Amelia Wolvin, the director of the Unified Board Agency.


Opening of an outpatient mental health office in Marquette County at the Crossroads Clinic, a medical clinic located at the junction of highway 82 and highway 51.  Jon S. Matthew, Ph.D., was the first mental health professional with an office in Marquette County.  At that time he was employed by Community Services Associates, Portage.  His primary role was to work with police, social services, AODA, and schools, to deal with emergencies and to provide consultation to address the needs of people having mental health problems.  As time went on the psychotherapy component, or, in other words, mental health counseling services, began to expand, as citizens began to request services themselves.

1979 to 1982

Start-up of Community Support Program, with a second mental health professional located in Marquette County to address the needs of people with chronic mental illness. During this time Mr. Ransom was the director of social services.  The social workers with the county were Rudy Winther, Jack Schwartz, and Dick Charles.  Amelia Wolvin was the director of the Unified Board.  During this time we started the Community Support Program and began adding staff.


Start-up of Northland Community Services, Inc., with an office located on East Second Street in Westfield.  Staff included Jon S. Matthew, Ph.D., the director, Jan Carlson, M.S.W., the Community Support Program worker, Dawn Thalacher, the receptionist, and Heinz Vogel, the psychiatrist.  Dawn is still with Northland.

1983 to 1986

During this time frame, Mr. Ransom retired as the director of social services.  Ken Ramminger then became the director.  He moved from Milwaukee where he was the director of social services for Milwaukee County where he had 1500 social workers working for him.  In Marquette County he had three social workers.  Needless to say, Ken was well known across the state, full of energy and ideas, and he began to develop collaborative programming for children and families in Marquette County.

During this time Northland added case management for developmentally disabled, expanded the outpatient psychotherapy service, expanded Community Support Program, and expanded the emergency services program.  The DD and CSP programs were made billable to Medicaid, thereby reducing some of the county costs, through collections from the Wisconsin Medical Assistance Program.  During this period the Unified Board, backed by the County Board of Supervisors, authorized substantial increases in funding each year to allow an expansion of services in the community.  The social services board began contracting with Northland to provide supportive home care to elderly residents of Marquette County.  The number of staff employed at Northland grew apace.


Northland moved to the new office at 161 Spring St., Westfield, which is still the home of Northland today.
The Child-At-Risk program was started through contract with the Department of Social Services, partially funded by the local school districts and by Medicaid.  This program still operates.  It has served several hundred families during its 20+ years of existence.

1988 to 1992

During this period several new programs started at Northland, including Birth-to-Three, personal care, home health, intensive in-home treatment for children and families.  The targeted case management benefit of Medicaid was tapped for several populations of clients being served by Northland.  Intensive in-home treatment was begun in Adams County, through contract with the Unified Board there.  We also offered this  service in Marquette County through contract with the Department of Social Services, and to Waushara County through the Department of Social Services.


Start-up of Children Come First, the initial integrated services program for children and families with severe emotional disturbance.  This program was funded by a federal mental health block grant for $80,000 that the county still receives today.  Targeted case management was attached to this program through contract with the Unified Board in Marquette County.  All enrolled families had a representative from the schools, social services, and mental health, as a minimum requirement for the team that was set up around each child.  This program is also known as “wraparound”.  The Coordinating Committee was begun to oversee this program.  About 200 families have been served in this program over the years.

1994 to 1997

Programs and funding for mental health services continued to expand in Marquette County, in terms of funding, and number of employees at Northland working in those programs.  During this time the county started the process of consolidating the Unified Board and the Department of Social Services into one agency,  the Department of Human Services.  The county decided to operate the DD case management service and the Birth-to-Three service themselves, thereby withdrawing the contract for those services from Northland.  Marquette County also discontinued the intensive in-home treatment program (MA-SED) that we provided there for children and families with severe emotional disturbance, but continued to contract with Northland for the integrated services program, the wraparound program.  By this time Northland was operating several state licensed or certified programs, including home health, outpatient clinic, Community Support Program, and Emergency Services.  The targeted case management benefit was also being used in a variety of programs.  Northland received the contract in Waupaca County to start-up wraparound programming there.  Dan Naylor and Howard Harrington were hired to provide oversight of this process.


Opening of the consolidated county department, the Department of Human Services in Marquette County.  At this time both Ken Ramminger and Amelia Wolvin retired as directors of their respective agencies that were now pulled under the umbrella of human services.


Start-up of intensive in-home treatment services in Juneau County, also known as MA-SED.

2000 to 2005

The Department of Human Services in Marquette County now had Bill Orth as the director, who is today the director in Sauk County.  During this time the Birth-to-Three program was returned to Northland, except for the case management function.  Also, Coordinated Services Teams, another integrated services program, was begun in Marquette County through a grant with the state.  The contract for services with Waushara County discontinued during this time.  Other mental health programs continued to receive cost-of-living increases annually, although the era of program expansion had come to a close, at least those funded by county government.

2006 to 2010

County funding for services in Marquette County began to shrink due to a failure to keep up with inflation.  During this time Carol Wright was the county director.  The county board was having greater and greater difficulty meeting its budget partly  because the state was pulling back on its commitment to fund human services programs.  Funding for mental health programs was not cut so much in absolute dollars, but the increased monies necessary to keep up with inflation were withdrawn.  Similar funding problems began to emerge in public school budgets.   


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