Statement of the Issue
On August 8, 2003 the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Act (ICMHA) became law (LuAllen, Koch, Taylor, Payton, Weissberg & O’Brien, 2005). A report by the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Task Force (2003) states the current system, prior to passage of the ICMH, is “fragmented, limited in scope, and poorly resourced”. The Illinois General Assembly is attempting to address these issues with the passage of this act. This law promotes the development and the implementation of a coordinated mental health programs specifically aimed at children from birth to their 18th birthday. The coordination of services is addressed in section 5-1 of the ICMHA which states, “…the mental health plan shall contain short-term and long-term recommendations to provide comprehensive, coordinated service…” The programs are to consist of public and private agencies forming a referral network to serve the children in rural and urban settings of Illinois. LuAllen, et al, (2005), state that the greatest impact on service delivery will be made by utilizing both public and private agencies. This mental health system is to make early intervention, preventative measures, and treatment programs available for all children, birth thru 18 years of age, regardless of their socio-economic situation. The intervention and preventative aspects are to be both long and short term. ICMHA makes recommendations as to how to fund the programs by the use of federal, state, and local government sources (Pub. L. No. 93-0495). Section 15 of the ICMHA addresses how the social and emotional needs of school children, K thru 12, will be met by the school districts. Section 15 mandates that individual school districts develop and implement policies to address the mental health needs of its children. These policies developed by the school districts are to be made an integral part of their educational programs. Specifically the act states; “Every Illinois school district shall develop a policy for incorporating social and emotional development into the district’s educational program. The policy shall address teaching and assessing social and emotional skills and protocols for responding to children with social, emotional, or mental health problems, or a combination of such problems, that impacts learning ability. Each district must submit this policy to the Illinois State Board of Education by August 31, 2004” (p. 2).
Section 15 of the ICMHA requires the Illinois Board of Education to incorporate standards for social and emotional learning into the Illinois Learning Standards. This requirement’s intent is to better measure and strengthen the children’s readiness for academic achievement. Definition of the Policy
The Illinois Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003 reads as follows; “The State of Illinois shall develop a Children’s Mental Health Plan containing short-term and long-term recommendations to provide comprehensive, coordinated mental health prevention, early intervention, and treatment services for children from birth through age 18”.
What this means is that from cradle to the age of 18 the mental health of children will be addressed by the State of Illinois. The intent of this act is for all children of Illinois to be screened for social and emotional issues which might be an impediment to the child’s successful negotiation thru the educational system which may bode poorly for their functioning in society. Cooper (2008), appears to support this thinking by stating, “…Children and youth with emotional and behavioral problems have poorer academic outcomes than children with other disabilities. They experience lower levels of social adjustment…” (p 4). Children with social and emotional challenges do not fare as well in the job market compared to...