Spending jumps for kids' mental health

As taxpayers across Wisconsin foot bigger bills for children's mental health programs, state officials remain uncertain whether those extra dollars are steering more kids away from crisis.

Spending on county-provided programs climbed 15 percent to $121.8 million last year, marking the steepest rise since at least 2010, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin analysis of new budget reports.

Most of the growth, on the heels of a push by Wisconsin lawmakers to expand mental health services, was fueled by additional state and federal money. Counties also reported pouring hundreds of thousands of local dollars into the effort, though some officials have contested the accuracy of these figures.

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