MPTC Welcomes SSM Health Treffert Studios

The SSM Health Greater Fond du Lac Region is unveiling plans to partner with Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac to open the SSM Health Treffert Studios. The $2.75 million project – located at the corner of Highway 23 and National Avenue – is scheduled to begin construction in early 2022 with an early summer 2022 opening.

Continuing to build upon the legacy of Darold Treffert, MD, a world-renowned autism and savant syndrome expert, the Treffert Studios will expand clinical services and offerings to young adults with a focus on strengths and neurodiversity. Its focus will be to help young adults develop skills to secure gainful employment.

The Treffert Studios will create a vibrant space for such activities as:

• Hosting performances, speaker events, art gallery, healing garden

• Producing music, videos, talk shows, video game streaming groups

• Innovating mental health care with new multimedia-based treatments

• Training and educating Wisconsin’s mental health workforce

• Cultivating critical life skills including social communication and creative self-expression

“Since its opening in 2016, the Treffert Center team is contacted by individuals from across the globe for the services it offers,” according to Matt Doll, PhD, director of Outpatient Behavioral Health, Treffert Center and Autism Services. “The physical building that will be the Treffert Studios offers tangible examples of how providing individuals with opportunities to explore their talents and options utilizing their unique strengths can lead individuals to greater independence and long-term employment.” 

 “The studios will provide a brick-and-mortar location as well as a global platform for creative media opportunities in which people will be free to express themselves, develop vocational and executive functioning skills, practice social skills and make friends while being surrounded by support and in a safe environment,” according to Tara Geier, BCBA, who serves with Bryan Mischler, LCSW, as a co-leader of the Leaders in Creative Media group. Geier and Mischler are responsible for the initial Treffert Studios proposal.

The Agnesian HealthCare Foundation is supporting the Treffert Studios with a $250,000 gift. 

“While the Foundation has provided financial support for the initial construction of the Treffert Studios project, there will be additional funding needs to support ongoing programs,” according to Shawn Fisher, executive director. “We’re looking forward to working with potential donors to discuss how they can support the needs associated with ongoing growth as well as new and unexplored opportunities.” 

The Treffert Studios is the next step in strategic expansion and growth of the Treffert Center portfolio of services, which includes the Treffert Academy, Treffert Clinic, Treffert Autism Services, Treffert Library, and a consulting relationship with the School District of North Fond du Lac’s charter school – the Treffert Way School for the Exceptional Mind.

“The Treffert Approach has been used to support neurodivergent individuals in school settings, day cares, and now vocational and technical college to partner with Moraine Park and local businesses,” according to Meg Puddy, BCBA, Treffert Center autism services manager. “Many individuals with neurodiverse skills remain under employed or unemployed. The promise of a studio in partnership with Moraine Park is to leverage individual and community strengths in order to increase opportunities for individual and community productivity and long-term economic health.”

Moraine Park Technical College’s partnership will enhance its offerings as well. “There are limitless possibilities in how our staff and students can benefit from the Treffert Studios,” according to Bonnie Baerwald, president. “Treffert Studios plans greatly complement our four values, including inclusivity, impactful learning, continuous improvement, and collaboration. We know that our community, including area businesses, will also greatly benefit from this new and innovative program.”

“Our goal at the Treffert Center is to serve neurodivergent individuals across the life span,” says Jeremy Chapman, MD, a child & adolescent psychiatrist with the Treffert Center. “Bryan and Tara facilitate a Leaders in Creative Media group which focuses on young adults’ strengths and abilities. We’ve expanded this work into our larger vision for a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind multimedia studio integrating mental health care, creative media, and vocational training.”

It is anticipated that the Treffert Studios will create 20 to 30 part- and full-time positions. Sara Kaiser serves as supervisor.

As opportunities and resources dwindled in 2017 for older autistic individuals, the Treffert Center – thanks to Vivian Hazel and now Meg Puddy – efforts focused on child-centered and strength-based care for autism services. 

“Thanks to the visionary leadership at SSM Health, Agnesian HealthCare Foundation and Moraine Park, this vision is now a reality,” Dr. Doll says. “Dr. Treffert’s legacy of finding the ‘Island of Genius’ in all of us has continued from the development of services at the Treffert Center for children and young adults through the Treffert Way – in partnership with the School District of North Fond du Lac – and now the Treffert Studios in partnership with MPTC. Coupled with the lived experience shared by neurodivergent individuals and their families, SSM Health’s commitment to transformation and innovations in community partnership in supporting individual growth, development and health across the lifespan is evident in this project.”

Written by Kristina Haensgen
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