Kane County gets $200,000 to improve children's mental health

The Kane County Health Department has been awarded $200,000 to improve children's mental health services.

The initial planning grant and technical support from the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation will help coordinate and expand existing efforts to better meet the needs of families, said Michael Isaacson, assistant director for community health and project director for the initiative.

The money will fund the hiring of two health department employees - a program manager to serve as a bridge between the department and groups providing mental health services, and a navigator working directly with families dealing with mental health issues and community agencies providing assistance.

"We want to better connect our early childhood, behavioral health, juvenile justice and school systems ... and enhance what everyone is doing," Isaacson said. "We will be forming a planning council. We are fortunate in Kane County to have so many individuals and organizations doing tremendous work to address the behavioral health needs of our young residents."

In May, community members reviewed health data for the county and selected behavioral health as one of the top three priorities outlined in the new Kane County Community Health Improvement Plan. Leaders voted mental health and substance abuse to be the most severe health issues facing residents.

The health department's goal is to reduce the number of emergency department visits related to behavioral health by 5 percent by 2021. It is partnering with organizations serving the mental health needs of children representing early childhood, education, juvenile justice, local governments, mental health, primary care, social services and substance abuse providers.

This initiative will provide coordinated screenings and a single point of entry and help agencies increase services for families. Data collected will undergo regular review by partner agencies to improve quality of services and identify subpopulations whose needs are not being met.

"We are building a data and quality improvement system so we can better track what is happening with our families," Isaacson said.

The process begins with young children dealing with trauma and extends through youth in the juvenile justice system, he said.

After the planning year is complete, the county would be eligible for an additional $2.1 million over the following six years to implement the program.

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