SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) — The Pritzker Administration announced Tuesday that Illinois is launching a new, federally funded $2.5 million program to help pediatricians and other health care providers meet children’s mental health needs. The program will strengthen mental health services in schools and emergency departments by focusing on increasing the volume of counseling services provided throughout the state.

The department said the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Department of Health Care and Family Services, the Department of Human Services, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics will work together to provide more education and training opportunities for mental health physicians and other care professionals. health. They hope the program can also improve the network of mental health resources and referrals that providers and patients can access. There is also potential for telehealth service programs for children.

“The past few years have been difficult for all of us and this is especially true for our children,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “With these new dedicated resources, Illinois will better identify children with mental health challenges and ensure they have access to treatment and therapies that work while addressing disparities in access to mental health treatment.”

Expanding access to child mental health care in Illinois will be funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Health Resources and Services Administration through the U.S. Rescue Plan and the Safer Communities Act. Congress passed both proposals this year.

Governor Juliana Stratton said children deserve resources that will help them develop into happy, healthy adults. She noted that access to mental health services is critical for those struggling.

An African greeting asks ‘Are the children OK?’ “We know that when our children are healthy, our communities are strong and our futures are bright,” Stratton said. “Illinois is committed to ensuring children’s health by initiating collaborative programs across agencies to strengthen health services, schools, and comprehensive support for children and families throughout our state.”

This program will support pediatricians, family medicine doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the department said. The program will also support school health providers and emergency department staff who are often on the front lines when children need care.

“As a pediatrician, I have seen the unprecedented behavioral health challenges that our children in Illinois have faced in the past few years,” said Dr. Samir Vohra, Director of the Institute of International Public Health. This trend was evident even before the onset of COVID-19 and was exacerbated by the pandemic, which has disrupted learning and relationships and further isolated countless children. This new program will allow providers to have more resources to meet the needs of children through improved mental health education and training opportunities.”

UIC’s DocAssist Program is a free psychological counseling service for primary care providers who need assistance in screening, diagnosing and treating mental health and substance abuse problems for children, adolescents, and perinatal women. The DocAssist Program is operated by the UIC College of Pharmacy through an interagency agreement with the University’s Office of Medicaid Innovation and HFS. DocAssist is employed by child psychiatrists, social workers, and administrative assistants within the UIC Division of Psychiatry, who work to help providers diagnose and treat mental health problems in children.

DocAssist medical director Dr. Diane Mich said the new state project is an important step in addressing the mental health crisis for young people in Illinois.

“The Illinois DocAssist Program was created to address disparities in mental health treatment for at-risk populations in Illinois, and this partnership helps advance our ability to bridge the gap between primary and specialized mental health care,” Misch said. “We estimate that with the launch of the partnership, child mental health counseling is expected to grow by over 40% and we expect to see improved outcomes for at-risk youth across race, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, and socioeconomic status.”

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