Children's Mental Health task force hearings
continue through Friday
- by Rhonda Robinson, Central Illinois
As public forums continue this week throughout the state, more
concerns are emerging as parents learn of a new mental health
screening plan for Illinois' children ages zero through 18 and
“Children’s Mental Health: An Urgent Priority for Illinois,” the
53 page report in which The Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003 is
based upon details a vast new bureaucracy which stresses
intervention and treatment for all Illinois children from the womb
and continues throughout adolescence, at age 18.
Sighting early intervention as key to academic success and crime
prevention, this new law, if enacted according to current
recommendations, would also require all pregnant women to be
screened prior to delivery for depression and periodically for the
first six months after she gives birth.
“This is a major piece of legislation,” Mike Burke, Ounce
of Prevention's director of communications told IllinoisLeader.com.
“We know that behavior is shaped in the early years, and that
emotional well being is affected by complications with birth. This
act forces Illinois to recognize the importance of children’s
emotional well being.”
The Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003 requires the development
of a state Children’s Mental Health Plan and creates a special
Children’s Mental Health Fund in the State Treasury.
Screenings, testing, and treatments are to be offered in homes,
pre-schools, daycare, and throughout the public school system. A
child over the age of 12 will be provided two mental health sessions
without parental consent.
This Act creates a “Children’s Mental Health Partnership” that
reports directly to the Governor. It requires the Illinois State
Board of Education to develop and implement a plan that incorporates
social and emotional standards as part of the mandated Illinois
Learning Standards, due on the Governors desk by December 31, 2004.
All Illinois School districts are required to develop a policy
incorporating emotional and social development into the district’s
educational program. This policy is to be submitted to the ISBE by
The report states the policy the schools adopt should address
“teaching and assessing social and emotional skills and protocols
for responding to children with mental health problems that impact
It also says that the program will monitor school systems’
collecting and reporting of information about student progress on
social and emotional development and the social climate of a school,
and increase the number of school-based health centers equipped to
provide mental health services.
Funding to implement these policies are not outlined fully in the
The report acknowledges that mental health in Illinois is
severely under funded, and children’s mental health can “hardly be
called a system” and yet, this massive creation of a new bureaucracy
which expands it’s reach to pregnant women, infants and eighteen
year olds, in it’s current form, is laden with unfunded mandates for
the school system and a host of other agency currently offering
services to Illinois children.
The Department of Human Services estimates this act will expand
the population within the system an increase of 5,000 new clients
costing an estimated $10 million.
Public hearings will be in Rockford on Thursday and Chicago on
© 2004 IllinoisLeader.com -- all rights reserved
launches compulsory mental health screening for children and
pregnant women" on Monday, July 19, 2004
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