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Published on May 16, 2024
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker Highlights Youth Mental Health Initiatives at Lincoln Library EventSource: X/Governor JB Pritzker

The Empire State is stepping up the fight for mental wellness. On Wednesday, Governor JB Pritzker alongside a cadre of state leaders and mental health advocates took the stage at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library to spotlight Illinois' fight against mental health issues, in line with Mental Health Awareness Month. The Children's Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative, a push to revamp mental health services for youth, was front and center in the discussion, according to an official press release.

Pritzker's initiative, breathing life since March last year aims to give young Illinoisans better help with their mental health troubles. The highlight of the meeting was the BEACON portal, designed as a one-stop online shop for public mental health services, getting ready for a summer launch, and a Mental Health Bill of Rights that underlines the goal of trauma-informed, evidence-based care. "Our goal has always been to make Illinois the best state in the nation to raise a family," Pritzker said.

The gathering also celebrated the success of the Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) program, a peer-to-peer support system aiding those recovering from mental and substance use disorders. Nods were also given to recent graduates of this progressive program. Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton expressed commitment to an "inclusive and equitable approach to mental health," adding, "will lead to stronger, more resilient communities where no one faces their challenges alone."

At the core of the day's talk was the message, "Mental health is public health." Dr. Sameer Vohra of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) explained the centrality of mental health to daily life and relationships, emphasizing IDPH's ongoing efforts with the Transformation Initiative to focus on "awareness, prevention, and treatment." Furthermore, Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Designate, Dulce M. Quintero announced a partnership with Google on the upcoming BEACON portal and reiterated the department's dedication to "expanding capacity and broadening access" to behavioral health services for kids.

The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) Acting Director Robert Vickery spoke about the critical need for mental health services as part of rehabilitation for youth in custody. He added that the Children's Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative is crucial for assisting young people to connect with vital services as they reintegrate into their communities.

Lastly, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders described the commitment to students' mental well-being in schools, saying that "academic success is deeply intertwined with their social and emotional well-being." Alongside Mental Health Awareness Month activities, the initiative released a wellness-supporting Spotify playlist and tips for stress management, using the acronym "AWESOME," guiding individuals through simple, mindfulness-based strategies.