Illinois United for Youth

Project Overview

Fact Sheet

In 2014, the Illinois Department of Mental Health Services, Bureau of Child and Adolescent Health Services, was awarded a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services to initiate a comprehensive community mental health services network for children and their families in the state of Illinois. As a result, a partnership between the Department of Children and Family Services, Healthcare and Family Services, Illinois State Board of Education, Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Public Health was forged and the Illinois United for Youth-System of Care (IUY/SOC) expansion project was created.

The IUY/SOC expansion project is responsible for improving behavioral health outcomes for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances who live throughout Illinois' five regions and 102 counties. As the fifth largest state in the country, with just over 12.9 million residents it is estimated that there are between 115,615 to 148,648 children and adolescents, aged 9-17 or 7 to 9 percent respectively, that have serious mental illnesses. Of those with serious mental illnesses, more than six thousand (6000) have serious emotional disturbances. Unfortunately, despite making substantial progress over the years, many cross-system infrastructure and service gaps still remain statewide. As a result children and youth with the most severe mental health needs are at risk. Often, these children and youth present with co-occurring disabilities, are served by multiple systems, are placed in restrictive environments, fall through the cracks as they age and transition out and incur mounting cost throughout their lifespan.

To address these issues, the IUY/SOC has leveraged youth, families, state agencies and a myriad of other stakeholders in order to establish a framework for financing, supporting and sustaining a statewide SOC network. The IUY/SOC network will: 1) invest in a statewide training and technical assistance infrastructure; 2) cultivate legislative and executive level support; 3) establish a cross system SOC management structure that guides the SOC implementation process; and 4) ensure cross system, policy and budget collaborations.

Project Design and Implementation

The IUY/SOC network is a multi-year, multi-system funded statewide initiative, developed by the Illinois Division of Mental Health, Bureau of Child and Adolescent Services in collaboration with the above-mentioned child serving sister agencies. Through the support and cross-system collaboration, the IUY/SOC network is well positioned to implement the necessary policies, programs and practices that are grounded in the values and principles of the SOC framework. Three key factors support this supposition:

  • IUY/SOC network is an evidence-based and data driven program that centers on establishing care coordinated mechanisms for youth with serious emotional disabilities who have needs that require multi-system collaboration, with a particular focus on those youth who present with behavioral issues that are so severe that their parents are willing to relinquish custody to the state;
  • IUY/SOC network is designed to transform Illinois' continuum of services into a model that can deliver intensive multi-system involvement and community based services to children and adolescents that often have behavioral, developmental, learning and/or physical health disabilities; and
  • IUY/SOC network is a logical extension of the Bureau of Child and Adolescent Services and its sister agencies, longstanding, comprehensive child and adolescent community mental health strategy.

Step-by-Step Strategies

  • Develop the administrative structure that will support the SOC network implementation process;
  • Develop interagency structures that set policy and guide and support the SOC expansion;
  • Create, expand and individualized the wraparound services approach;
  • Create and expand family driven and youth guided services. This entails including youth and families in the planning and delivery of services in order to improve outcomes;
  • Develop and implement strategies directed at reducing racial and ethnic disparities as well as geographical impediments in order to improve cultural and linguistic competencies across child serving delivery systems;
  • Increase the use of Medicaid to finance services by adding new services, changing existing services definitions, obtaining waivers, using Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment and other rehabilitation options to finances services and supports for the SOC expansion;
  • Maximize the use of federal system of care grants to finance infrastructure and/or services to support the SOC expansion;
  • Redeploy funds from higher cost to lower cost services;
  • Create ongoing training and technical assistance capacity;
  • Establish a strong youth and family partnership/connection to advocate for and be involved in, the SOC expansion process;
  • Use data to determine the outcomes and the cost avoidances across systems and services to promote the SOC expansion approach; and
  • Cultivate partnerships with provider agencies, organization leaders, manage care organizations and other key stakeholder to support SOC expansion efforts.

To meet these goals, the Bureau of Child and Adolescent Services will:

  • Strengthen family-driven and youth-guided services by ensuring that their voice is heard at all levels of policy and program development.
  • Formalize the state's capacity to identify, engage and oversee SOC development and implementation opportunities around the state.
  • Develop a SOC Technical Assistance Center for Illinois (STACI) dedicated to:
    • supporting local communities within the managed care structure as well as those entities that do not have access to manage care; and
    • coordinating all statewide planning, preparation and educational efforts surrounding SOCs as new and existing entities attempt to integrate SOCs into their delivery model.