Illinois partners with Google to launch new children’s mental health resource portal Chicago News

Illinois partners with Google to launch new children’s mental health resource portal Chicago News

Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton speaks to reporters and supporters at a press conference announcing the launch of a new unified portal for children's behavioral health programs on January 29, 2024.  (Illinois Capitol News)Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton speaks to reporters and supporters at a press conference announcing the launch of a new unified portal for children’s behavioral health programs on January 29, 2024. (Illinois Capitol News)

For years, parents and providers have criticized Illinois’ disjointed system for finding children’s mental health care. Leaders hope the new partnership can change that.

The Illinois Department of Human Services is partnering with Google to launch a new centralized portal for children’s mental health care, state officials announced Monday.

Governor JB Pritzker, Google public sector executives and state lawmakers gathered at Google’s Fulton Market offices in Chicago to announce that the portal, called BEACON, will launch this summer. The governor said the centralized center will make it easier for parents and providers to find behavioral health resources.

“If you ever have to find these resources, it’s difficult,” Pritzker said.

In addition to seeing what care services are available at state agencies in a central location, parents can “upload documents to avoid duplication in applying for all of these services,” he said.

Parents, allied health care providers and educators will be able to use the platform to monitor what services a child may be eligible for from the state.

BEACON is the latest major project following last year’s Blueprint for Transformation, an executive report on children’s mental health commissioned by Governor Pritzker’s Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative.

The report highlights five solutions to improve children’s mental health care:

  • Adjust service capabilities

  • Simplify service process

  • Intervene early

  • Strengthen accountability and achieve service transparency

  • Build agility to improve system responsiveness

Dana Weiner, the report’s lead author and the program’s chief officer, emphasized BEACON as a “state-of-the-art tool” that will reduce the logistical and emotional burden associated with seeking mental health care.

“Families who previously had to go through multiple avenues multiple times to tell their teen’s story about the challenges they face in the hope that a door to services will open can now choose a centralized place to find help,” Weiner said.

The initiative was launched in 2022 when Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton also expressed concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Illinois youth.

“The past few years have been harder than anything I’ve ever seen in my life. The pandemic has disrupted the norm,” she said. “Understandably, we are seeing a spike in mental health issues among our youngest community members.”

The IDHS Mental Health Department contracted with Google Public Sector, the division within the tech giant that works with governments and universities, to develop BEACON. Officials said the portal will be able to connect caregivers to a wide range of medical resources provided by a range of state agencies, including but not limited to the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Healthcare and Families Services.

“In this age of technology, we have tremendous power at our fingertips, and we are leveraging it to nurture our children and create a treatment-centered Illinois,” Stratton said. “The BEACON portal will centralize and simplify ensuring mental health and behavioral health intervention processes. This will reduce the burden on our caregivers.”

Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, a former social worker and chair of the House Mental Health and Addictions Committee, said BEACON is a sign of progress in the state’s mental health system.

“If you’ve been through this, like many of us, you know that nothing in the mental health care system is easy to navigate,” she said. “Things are getting better. We still have a lot of hurdles to overcome when it comes to children’s behavioral health.”

Illinois Capitol News is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and television stations across the state. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasting Foundation and the Southern Illinois Editors Guild.


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