Gov. Pritzker Announces New Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center


 

Gov. Pritzker Announces New Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center 

Housed at SIU in partnership with UIC, IBHE, and IDHS, the Center will strengthen behavioral health care infrastructure and access in Illinois 

SPRINGFIELD — Governor JB Pritzker along with state and local officials celebrated the launch of a new Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center, which will increase Illinois’ capacity to recruit, educate, and retain behavioral health professionals. The Center builds upon the state’s commitment to behavioral health transformation, strengthening behavioral health care infrastructure and access across the state. 

Housed at Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine, the Center was created in partnership with the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Jane Addams College of Social Work, the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). 

“From care portals and universal screenings to improved coordination of service delivery and increased statewide capacity, we are laying out a plan to build the best behavioral health system in the nation,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We’re launching the Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center, a partnership between the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine, and the University of Illinois Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. It will begin with a $5 million annual investment from the Department of Human Services to help both rural and urban areas of our state address the behavioral healthcare crisis to increase access to effective services for all Illinoisans.” 

In Illinois and across the nation, behavioral health professionals are only able to provide a fraction of the services required to meet the population’s needs due to a national shortage of workers. The Center was established to combat these critical shortages in the workforce by addressing barriers to recruitment and training, collecting data on behavioral health needs, increasing diversity in the workforce, and expanding the capacity of health care providers to meet behavioral health needs. 

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU SOM) will serve as the primary administrative hub in Springfield, providing coordination and support for building the behavioral health workforce pipeline and increasing entry into the field. The UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work will serve as the secondary hub, supporting specific data collection and training initiatives. Public and independent universities, as well as community colleges in ten regions, will be invited to participate as partners to increase the statewide impact. 

The creation of the Center is a milestone in a long-term plan to address the behavioral health workforce emergency. State lawmakers sounded an alarm about the staffing shortages in a unanimous 2018 resolution. In 2019, a Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center Task Force issued a final report recommending the creation of a hub-and-spoke center to address unmet mental and behavioral health needs. 

SIU SOM, UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work, and all consortium members will coordinate programs and oversee initiatives to increase the behavioral healthcare workforce and its capacity to provide high-quality behavioral health services across the state. 

“Everyone deserves equal access to behavioral and mental health care services. I'm pleased to hear that Behavioral Health Education Centers are being offered in partnership with the Dept. of Human Services, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and key agencies to collaboratively bring more mental health workers to communities that badly need them,” said State Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago). “This initiative will help grow the number of behavioral health emergency workers and provide people in our community with the support they need and deserve." 

"The shortage of behavioral health workers needs to be met with a firm commitment to proactive education programs," said State Representative Lakesia Collins, (D-Chicago). "By centralizing efforts for behavior health education, we can spur the growth of well-trained professionals in this field, and provide much-needed assistance to countless Illinoisans who need caregivers." 

“I commend and thank Governor Pritzker for prioritizing behavioral health workforce development in Illinois. The Workforce Center is an opportunity to transform the system to make it more responsive to the needs of individuals, families and children in this State,” said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services. “IDHS is energized to work with our partners to strengthen the infrastructure needed to provide critical services to those in need.” 

  

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