Marquette University opens Next Step Clinic to address Milwaukee mental health needs

Nov. 6, 2019

next step clinic award group photoMILWAUKEE — Next Step Clinic — the winner of Marquette University’s first-ever “President’s Challenge” — is now open. The clinic, housed alongside Next Door Foundation Inc., and operating as a satellite of Mental Health America of Wisconsin, is meant to address the mental health and developmental needs of Milwaukee’s underserved children and families.
This year, the clinic will roll out family navigation and developmental assessment services; trauma-focused therapies for children and families will begin in 2020.

Dr. Amy Van Hecke, associate professor of psychology in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, led the charge for the clinic along with community partner Leah Jepson of Mental Health America of Wisconsin, and an interdisciplinary team of over 15 faculty, licensed psychologists and community members in early 2018 after Marquette President Michael R. Lovell announced the launch of the President’s Challenge.

Lovell, with support from the Johnson Controls Foundation, committed to awarding a $250,000, two-year grant to one interdisciplinary, collaborative proposal that seeks to change the trajectory of lives in the greater Marquette community by addressing one or more of the critical areas in which neighborhood inequities exist: health, education, safety, housing, transportation and economic prosperity.

Next Step Clinic was declared the winner of the inaugural challenge in January. Selected for its tailored approach to provide mental health resources, the clinic focuses on children and families afflicted with psychological trauma and mental health disorders that often manifest from violence, addiction, abuse and other high-stress situations. A family advisory panel steers the mission and structure of services provided in the clinic.

Van Hecke said Next Step Clinic is helping serve families in the short term, while combating the shortage of qualified trauma-responsive mental and developmental health practitioners that Milwaukee is experiencing — particularly in inner-city neighborhoods over the long term. The clinic is staffed by two family navigators, Troney Small and Ida Winters, who connect families to services both within and outside the clinic, and graduate student trainees in interdisciplinary health-serving fields who are supervised by faculty and by a director of clinical services, Dr. Amy Leventhal, a licensed clinical psychologist. Van Hecke and Jepson are executive co-directors of the clinic.

“With assistance from faculty, students, area universities, and community partners, as well as churches and other organizations, Next Step Clinic will forge a strong pathway into the lives of those in need of its services and break the generational cycle of lack of access to needed care,” Van Hecke said. “The clinic sends a message to Marquette’s surrounding communities that we are here to listen, understand and take action on these areas for improvement, and we are here to partner with you on your journey towards resilience.”

Lovell echoes Van Hecke’s ambitions and expectations for the clinic.

“The President’s Challenge is all about taking action to improve lives in our city, and it’s just fantastic that Dr. Van Hecke and her community partners have the Next Step Clinic open and serving the mental health needs of Milwaukee’s underserved families,” said Marquette University President Michael Lovell. “My congratulations to everyone involved and especially to the Johnson Controls Foundation for their crucial support.”

About Shelby Williamson

Shelby Williamson

Shelby is a senior communication specialist in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Shelby at (414) 288-6712 or