State leaders unveiled a blueprint Friday on ways to transform behavioral health services for Illinois children.

The report lays out five goals to improve services: bolstering collaboration between state agencies, streamlining existing processes, early intervention, increased accountability and creating system “agility” to respond to the changing needs of youth.

It sets out a dozen strategies to achieve those aims, including:

  • Creating a centralized resource like an intake portal for families seeking services for children.
  • Centralizing oversight of residential beds.
  • Reviewing data to guide provider capacity adjustments.
  • Offering universal screening in education and pediatrics to ensure that mental and behavioral health problems are detected and addressed early.
  • Using paraprofessionals to build the workforce and supporting other roles with incentives and different approaches to credentialing.

“Long before COVID-19 turned our world upside down, our nation was facing a mental health crisis,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a press conference in Maywood announcing the report. “As a governor, as a father, I refuse to let our youth fall through the cracks in this way.”

The report is the culmination of an initiative announced last March that aimed to ensure access to care and further transparency for parents and caregivers in the process.

Agencies involved include the Departments of Children and Family Services, Healthcare and Family Services, Human Services, Juvenile Justice and Public Health, along with the State Board of Education.

Dana Weiner, a senior policy fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and initiative lead, said they have spent the past year challenging the status quo and testing “new ideas for coordinating across state agencies.”

“In the process, we have learned a lot about the barriers we will need to overcome to improve our system and the many, many programs, communities, providers and people who we can rely on as a foundation as we seek to innovate and improve service delivery to families,” Weiner said.

Pritzker’s budget proposal released earlier this month includes $22.8 million to start implementing the report’s recommendations.

Additionally, Pritzker announced Friday that Weiner will oversee a new office to lead the interagency effort to implement the plan.

Weiner and the agencies will submit recommendations to Pritzker’s office by October on how to further implement the blueprint, according to an executive order issued Friday.

Agency leaders said in a joint statement they will work together to address the youth mental health crisis.

“This focus on the health of our children is critical to building the brightest futures for all our communities,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra.