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A mental health crisis among children in Illinois will be fought by streamlining and easing access to necessary treatment and coordination between six separate state agencies, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced.
In the works for nearly a year, the study examined the capacity and condition of Illinois’ response to behavioral health in young people. It sketches avenues to help families first to understand mental illness, then makes it easier for them to get required care without navigating what Pritzker called the “serpentine” paths of disparate state agencies.
“Government doesn’t work very well between silos of one department and another,” Pritzker said at a school in the Chicago suburb of Maywood. “People feel like they have territory that they need to protect. And the fact is that our territory is all of the children of the state of Illinois.”
The mental health of children nationwide rapidly unraveled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2021 found 44% of American children had depressive episodes lasting at least two weeks, according to the report.
Lawmakers and advocates were impressed by the number of agencies working together.
“You think of a parent who’s in crisis at their wit’s end … having to call each and every one of these agencies and trying to keep track of it,” said Senate Public Health Committee Chairperson Karina Villa, a West Chicago Democrat. “All they want is to get their baby the help that they need. Now we have a blueprint as to how they’re going to be able to do that.”
“What families (should) experience is a simplified, centralized, clear way to get access to services to understand what their children are struggling with and to identify the things that might help address those challenges,” said Dana Weiner, one of the authors of the report.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Behavioral and Mental Health Committee, Terri Bryant of Murphysboro, said she’s pleased a plan is underway, adding her main focus will be ensuring sufficient treatment space, particularly in southern Illinois where she lives.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.