Illinois governor’s plan targets children’s mental health crisis

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A child mental health crisis in Illinois is being combated by streamlining and facilitating access to necessary treatment and coordination between six separate state agencies, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday.

The study, which has been in the works for nearly a year, examined the capacity and state of Illinois’ response to behavioral health in young people. It outlines ways to help families first understand mental illness and then make it easier for them to get the care they need without navigating what Pritzker called the “snaking” paths of different government agencies.

“Government doesn’t work very well between the silos of one department and another,” Pritzker said at a school in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago. “People feel like they have territory to protect. And the fact is, our territory is all the children of the state of Illinois.”

The mental health of children across the country has deteriorated rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2021 that 44% of American children have had depressive episodes that lasted at least two weeks, and nearly half had contemplated suicide, according to the report.

Legislators and lawyers were impressed by the number of agencies working together.

“You think of a parent who’s at the end of his tether with a crisis… he has to call every single one of these agencies and try to keep track,” said Karina Villa, chair of the Senate Public Health Committee, a West Chicago Democrat . “All they want is to give their baby the help they need. Now we have a blueprint on how they can do that.”

The report identifies technological, practical, legislative and other means to pool expertise between the Departments of Human Services, Children and Family Services, Juvenile Justice, Health and Family Services, Public Health and the State Board of Education.

The report’s authors were a team led by Dana Weiner, who is on loan from the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, where she is a Senior Policy Fellow.

“What families (should) experience is a simplified, centralized and clear way to access services to understand what their children are struggling with and to identify the things that could help address those challenges,” said Weiner.

Friday’s announcement marks the start of work to prepare the implementation plan, a report Pritzker expects by October. The governor’s proposed budget for fiscal 2024 includes $22.8 million to complete planning.

The senior Republican on the Senate Behavior and Mental Health Committee, Terri Bryant of Murphysboro, said she’s pleased a plan is underway, adding her primary focus will be ensuring adequate treatment space, particularly in the south of Illinois where she lives.

Bryant said she was recently called to help find a place for a 14-year-old Arkansas boy who was violent towards the aunt who took him into custody. None were available and the boy was placed in a hospital emergency room for three weeks.

The report finds that 80,000 children under the age of 18 live in areas of the state that lack the necessary facilities. It identifies calculations used to ensure fair allocation of sleeping space needs.

Early awareness of mental health issues is also crucial, Weiner said. The US Surgeon General found in a 2021 study that there is an average delay of 11 years between the time a child is diagnosed with a potential mental health problem and that child is treated. The report recommends widespread screening of young children, which could signal future problems.

Like the roost, the report recognizes that labor shortages across all industries will severely impact the mental health program. It states that the government must provide incentives, both by making education more accessible and by using paraprofessionals or helpers to do critical work that does not require extensive formal training.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford of Maywood noted the planned outreach to help parents understand troubling signs that are often “overlooked or minimized by adults because they believe these struggles are something their child can do.” can overcome alone”. Illinois governor’s plan targets children’s mental health crisis

Sarah Y. Kim

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