Illinois launches program to address pediatric mental healthcare

Illinois launched a new program Tuesday designed to help pediatricians and other providers meet the mental health needs of children.

The $2.5 million program, funded through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, will increase consultation services provided across Illinois, mental health education and training opportunities for physicians and healthcare professionals.

It aims to strengthen the network of mental health resources and referrals accessible to providers and their patients. It will also explore the feasibility of direct provider-patient telehealth service programs.

The program will be a collaboration between state agencies, the University of Illinois Chicago’s DocAssist Program and the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said the plan is necessary as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused “unprecedented behavioral health challenges” for youth across the state.

“This new program will allow providers to have more resources to address children’s needs by improving mental health education and training opportunities,” he said. “It will also provide more assistance to pediatric primary care providers, allowing them to consult virtually with pediatric mental health specialists.”

The program will support a range of pediatric primary care providers, including pediatricians, family medicine physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as school-based health providers and emergency department providers.