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Press Release - Wednesday, May 15, 2024

SPRINGFIELD, IL - Governor JB Pritzker has joined state leaders, mental health advocates, and others to mark Mental Health Awareness Month and discuss ongoing state initiatives to improve services for people dealing with mental health issues and their families. The Governor took part in a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, May 15, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, put together by the Children's Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative. The event also highlighted the success of the Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) program for providing trained peer support to individuals recovering from mental health and substance use disorders, and celebrated recent graduates of the program.

The Transformation Initiative was launched by Gov. Pritzker in March 2022 to improve access to mental health services for young people. Among the initiatives being developed by the Transformation team is the BEACON portal, a one-stop online resource connecting families to publicly funded mental health services that is slated to launch this summer. The Team is also developing a Mental Health Bill of Rights, a set of goals aimed at ensuring that all Illinoisans who need it have the ability to receive trauma-informed, evidence-based care.

"Our goal has always been to make Illinois the best state in the nation to raise a family," said Governor JB Pritzker. "That's why my administration is working to improve our statewide mental and behavioral health infrastructure for people of all ages. Our whole-of-government approach will ensure that everyone has the services and support they need to live happy and healthy lives."

"Mental wellness is essential for a happy life, and we are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the help they need," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "An inclusive and equitable approach to mental health, will lead to stronger, more resilient communities where no one faces their challenges alone."

"This Mental Health Awareness Month is an important reminder both that mental health challenges impact many Illinois families, and that help is available," said Dr. Dana Weiner, Director of the Children's Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative. "And more help is on the way, through the leadership of the Governor and our partners throughout state government. Where in the past navigating the mental health system has been enormously challenging, we are tearing down those roadblocks and giving families the tools to find the help they need."

"Mental health is public health," said Dr. Sameer Vohra, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). "Mental health affects every aspect of our lives: our relationships with family and friends, how we understand the world, and our daily interactions at work, school, and home. During this Mental Health Awareness Month and every month, IDPH is proud to partner with the Transformation Initiative, our other partners in government, and organizations across Illinois to focus on awareness, prevention, and treatment to build brighter futures for all our communities."

"Mental health is a vital component of a person's overall well-being, and the Illinois Department of Human Services will continue to prioritize the access, availability, and effectiveness of mental health services in partnership with community organizations, local and federal government, and our sister agencies," said Dulce M. Quintero, Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Designate. "As the State Mental Health Authority, IDHS's Division of Mental Health will continue to meet the needs of Illinoisians by assuring access to publicly funded behavioral health resources. We are especially excited about the Division of Mental Health's partnership with Google to launch BEACON - the mental health service access portal for Illinois youth that will be coming online this summer."

"HFS is committed to expanding capacity and broadening access to high-quality behavioral health services for children across Illinois," Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Director Elizabeth Whitehorn said. "By taking an evidence-based, cross-agency approach, the Children's Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative is building on the important work each agency is doing individually to create a system that can better address the needs of families seeking youth mental and behavioral health services in a more coordinated and comprehensive way."

"Mental health is health. In the same way we prioritize monitoring and treating things like diabetes or heart disease, we must prioritize monitoring and supporting mental health," said Illinois DCFS Director Heidi E. Mueller. "Supporting the mental health of our children in care and their families through high quality treatment and care is essential in ensuring families have what they need to care for their children, and ensuring all our children have an opportunity to grow and thrive."

"Access to mental health services is absolutely vital to rehabilitation of the youth served by IDJJ, and to their families. Many youth in the care of IDJJ have significant levels of behavioral health needs, with most youth diagnosed with a mental health condition or substance use disorder. Youth returning to their communities from secure custody often face new or additional challenges related to mental health, and the Department has worked to increase access to mental health services for youth who are being reintegrated into their communities. The CBHT initiative plays an important role in helping young people connect to the services they need," stated Robert Vickery, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.

"Illinois has charted a path forward for our schools to prioritize the mental well-being of every student," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders. "Our students' academic success is deeply intertwined with their social and emotional well-being. This collaborative initiative reflects our commitment to fostering a culture of support, reducing stigma, and providing the necessary resources for our schools to ensure all children have what they need to learn."

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month activities, the Transformation Initiative is also distributing materials to promote a sense of calm and wellness, including a collaborative Spotify playlist with songs from mental health advocates across the state, found here. The materials also include tips on dealing with stress, using the acronym "AWESOME"--

Attention: Tune into your breath
Watch: Notice your thoughts
Embrace: Stay in the present moment
Sense: Savor sights, sounds, or tastes
Observe: Notice your surroundings
Move: Stretch or exercise your body
Experience: Get outside in nature

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