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Funded Projects

Illinois Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Expansion Program

Grant Status: Active

Training Category: Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program (PMHCA)

Project Director(s):

Kenya McRae, PhD
Illinois Department of Public Health
Chicago, IL
Phone: (312) 814-3655


Addressing pediatric mental health is a key element to enhancing children's emotional, behavioral and physical health. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, youth mental health was a concern to parents in Illinois; however, since the pandemic, pediatric mental health has risen to the forefront for everyone. Unfortunately, due to multiple barriers, many youth and families are unable to gain access to mental health services in Illinois. These barriers include a lack of pediatric mental providers, insufficient training for providers, and a limited network of available resources and referrals for mental health services.

Goals and Objectives:

In an effort to address these barriers and improve pediatric mental health access, the Illinois Department of Public Health Title V Program (IDPH) in collaboration with Illinois DocAssist (IDA) and the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, propose to expand Illinois' existing statewide pediatric mental health program and services. This expansion will focus on increasing the volume of consultation services provided across the State, providing a multitude of mental health education and training opportunities to physicians and health care professionals, and strengthening the network of mental health resources and referrals accessible to providers and their patients. "Primary care providers" refers to a broad group of specialties that care for children and adolescents (e.g., pediatric primary care and subspecialty, family medicine, emergency medicine, nurse practitioners). Activities: IDPH and its partners plan to focus on the following: (a) training primary care providers on pediatric mental health and use of consultation lines; (b) leveraging the existing pediatric mental health care access program (IDA) to expand youth screening, assessment, treatment, and referrals throughout the state with the support of psychiatric consultations and care coordination support for providers; (c) creating a pediatric mental health care access database and functionality for streamlined data reporting to allow for better analysis and strategic planning; (d) increasing and enhancing outreach efforts to primary care providers knowledge and utilization of IDA; and (e) exploring the feasibility of implementing a direct provider-patient telehealth service programs.


IDPH serves as a convener, encouraging collaboration, and/or coordination, between child-serving systems across the State to align disparate efforts around achieving common goals and objectives. Throughout the project, IDPH will utilize this strategy to create the linkages and collaborations necessary to achieve the objectives of this grant. More specifically, IDPH will work with the local health departments and sister state agencies to conduct an environmental scan of existing community-based resources in each of our communities targeted for implementation. Local health departments play a critical role in either offering or referring health care to children and adolescents through the various services they offer. In addition, IDPH will identify other existing resources funded through the State that will help engage primary care providers and address pediatric mental health care challenges.


An evaluation plan will be implemented at the beginning of the project to capture and document actions contributing to relevant project impact and outcomes. The evaluation will use qualitative and quantitative methods to determine the overall effectiveness of the project on provider outcomes and pediatric mental health care access. It will also assess the project's implementation. This project has the opportunity to extend the practice of pediatric providers when encountering mental health concerns in their patients, especially in light of a severe shortage of mental health experts in the State of Illinois.