UPDATE: March 12, 2021 At the request of the Illinois Department of Education and Rep. Conroy, this bill has been merged to highlight the efforts of a task force, initiated by Governor Pritzker, with the support of the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnerships (ICMHP). HA1 is now the new bill. Countless hours and personal finances were put forth into this effort in the interest of safeguarding our children, state and nation, empowering communities and building bridges, and to be responsible stewards of emerging technologies for our future leaders. Many thanks to the Illinois Psychiatric Society for your amazing insights in writing the introductory bill.
The Mental Health Task Force is meant to create an educational resource for Communication, Intelligence, Empathy, Emotion, and Empowerment for all primary and secondary students. It is led through the leadership of the Illinois House Mental Health & Addiction Committee Chairperson, Representative Deb Conroy. Prior to being elected, Representative Conroy was a District 205 board member and artist by trade. “Deb Conroy is a passionate community activist and a tireless advocate for mental health and DuPage County schools.” (article) (article)
MHTF | The Mental Health Task Force was originally introduced in the State of Illinois during the 101st General Assembly under HB 5852 (full text) (Conroy). The amendatory bill has been introduced during the 102nd General Assembly as HB 212, reflecting the changes requested from stakeholders who provided their input. The Illinois Psychiatric Society (IPS), has been especially insightful in their advice regarding the language for mental health professions. Behind the scenes, there has been a ton of help in making this bill happen. Madeline, in the Speaker’s Office, and Christina, in LRB, have gone above and beyond in the safeguarding of language and drafting of both versions. Hannah, in the Speaker’s office, has been preparing briefs for the members along with answering stakeholder questions. Liz, in Leader Hoffman’s office, was one of the first contacts during the very start of this idea.
This bill has two Chief Co-Sponsors. Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, whose continuing work and interests align with this initiative, including introducing and passing MHEAC, the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act [article], Public Act 101-0251. Speaker Welch also served 12 years on the Proviso Township High School Board of Education, 10 of those 12 years as the Board Chair. Assistant Majority Leader Jay Hoffman, is also a Chief Co-Sponsor to this bill. Representative Hoffman is a former prosecutor and law enforcement official who served as Director of Probation and Court Services for the 20th Judicial Circuit Court. Leader Hoffman is a member of many committees including Judiciary – Civil Committee Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Subcommittee, and the Judiciary – Criminal Committee Criminal Administration and Enforcement Subcommittee. He advocates for seniors, veterans, schools, laborers, and the good people of Metro East.
Mental health is not specific to any faith, color, gender, or socioeconomic standards. It applies to everyone. It impacts everyone. In response to mass shootings, cyber bullying, evolving emerging technologies, so many other levels of unseen abuse, in addition to the normal struggles of growing-up, to name a few, it is our ethical responsibility to provide access to mental health care for all students. This could be one of the greatest gifts that we can give to all children, and a standard that other states should follow.
Mental health is not specific to any faith, color, gender, or socioeconomic standards. It applies to everyone. It impacts everyone.
Discussions leading up to the Illinois Mental Health Task Force began in 2019, with language discussed during Illinois 2019 Veto Session. It is an initiative of ATOLLetc LLC, an emerging tech consulting company, with a strong belief system in safe guarding our youth’s future and progression into the world of rapidly evolving technologies.
ATOLLetc LLC did not engage with the mental health professions during the initial drafting and introductory phases of the MHTF, with the intent of eliminating any rhetoric that this legislation is motivated by industry or financial gain. However, it is important to note that the mental health professions are the essential core of the of the MHTF and in defining the outcome of this bill.
The language noted here, is reflective of the bill’s introductory form. The program is meant to provide open access to a part of health care that should be available to everyone, starting with Illinois youth. Ideally, this mandated health care shall:
- Create empathy for other students whose needs may differ from their own;
- To teach emotional responsibility and empowerment;
- To remove the stigma of seeing a mental health provider by exposure and therefore education of;
- To normalize counseling as a sort of life coaching application, of which, all students should have access to;
- To teach and develop interest in the mental health fields so that our youth will have a solid and applicable approach as needs change with evolving emerging technologies;
- To ensure that the science of psychology evolves with technology, by normalizing mental health care and incorporating it into the daily lives of future mental health care providers.
In its introduced form, the Illinois MHTF consists of appointed positions, to reflect the importance of this initiative, including licensed mental health professionals, school board members, parents and students. Appointments in this form, shall be made by the Governor, the Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, President of the Senate, Minority Leader of the Senate, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the Illinois Association of School Boards, and the State Board of Education. Through its well distributed representation, the appointed positions reflect the magnitude of the decisions that the MHTF shall present to the General Assembly.
Some of the stakeholder’s concerns include:
- Is there funding in place for this program?
- No. Funding is yet not in place for this initiative.
- The proposal submitted by the task force will provide specific aspects will be necessary for determining funding such as:
- if this service will be allocated through the school systems or other entity,
- what type of providers shall be utilized,
- how often the services shall be rendered,
- if this will be initiated as a pilot program,
- estimated students in those school districts,
- projected change in those numbers within the next (10) years,
- regional variations in costs for the program,
- IT and other data support for the program,
- (multi) Agency support for the program
- Legal needs and support for the program.
- Until those and other factors determined by the task force are more concrete and generally accepted by all participating entities, a budget with specific numerated line items for initial and long term funding needs is not yet in place.
- For the cost of the task force itself, it will be to the discretion of State Board of Education to estimate the cost of managing and conducting this task force, and should be considered in their 2021 appropriations hearings.
2. Will these services be administered through the schools?
- Where and how these services will be administered, will be a collective determination and proposal by the Task Force. The purpose of having all stakeholders involved in this conversation, is to come up with a generally accepted manner in which to implement this program.
Once the task force has submitted their findings, and a positive course of action is set in place, the following shall be true:
- Parents will have the option to opt their child out of the program;
- Mental health records will not become a part of a student’s school record.
We have a social and ethical responsibility to help guide our youth into the future. Providing a resource for students to learn how to effectively articulate their thoughts, feelings, and become emotionally responsible is a gift that should be available to everyone. It will help them to succeed professionally and personally throughout the rest of their lives.
While we can only predict where or how exactly these technologies will fully impact our society and communities, it is nearly impossible to be responsible stewards of things of which we do not fully understand. This reason, above all, is why this initiative is so important for the future of this country, and countries throughout the globe.
Be a part of the conversation. SHARE your thoughts and experiences by submitting the MHTF | Opinion | Experience | Impact form below. You may also contact your state legislator directly, by letting their office know if you support or oppose the MHTF. As always, one should approach all subject matter respectfully, especially when communicating with legislative aides.
Show your support by adding one of our logoed frames to your profile photo on Facebook, which may be found using the search: MHTF. Custom non-medical grade MHTF linen face masks may be purchased on Etsy. When placing your order, note in personalization, “logo to be sent (Seller’s instructions).” Supporters of this initiative may use the logo below.
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