SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation Wednesday forming two task forces, both aimed at addressing mental health issues in children, primarily those in foster care.
The Children’s Mental Health Council, which will be formed through Senate Bill 3889, is aimed at researching and recommending further legislation for children’s mental health needs, especially among those in residential placement. A big point of concern is the number of beds and providers compared to the number of children in need of services.
The Holistic Mental Health Care for Youth in Care Task Force, created through House Bill 4306, will monitor the capacity levels and payment rates of mental healthcare providers in order to increase retention. This is especially important for providers of color who represent the diverse array of children in foster care.
“We know the pandemic further exacerbated the mental health challenges our young people were already facing, and it is time we take action,” Pritzker said in a statement. “The Holistic Mental Health Care for Youth in Care Task Force will work to create policies based in real-world, lived experiences to better support our foster youth. To ensure we can also have an immediate impact, each child in foster care will be paired with a mental health professional, so they receive the compassion, investment, and advocacy that they need and deserve. There is nothing more important than caring for our young people, and I am proud to sign these two bills into law.”
In a release from the governor’s office, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports up to 80% of children in foster care have some form of “significant mental health issues.”