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ISBE and Lurie Children’s Hospital Announce $17.5 Million Initiative to Expand Successful Partnership That Promotes Mental Health

April 13, 2022

Seven social-emotional learning hubs will support trauma-informed practices in schools

  

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Center for Childhood Resilience (CCR) at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago today announced the statewide expansion of their successful partnership to promote mental health, called the Resilience Education to Advance Community Healing (REACH) Statewide Initiative. The expansion, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health, includes the launch of seven social-emotional learning hubs across the state that will provide localized training and support for trauma-informed practices in schools.

The REACH model builds schools’ capacity to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma and to meet the social-emotional and mental wellness needs of students and staff. The research-based REACH model includes assembling a cross-functional team; conducting a needs assessment to pinpoint gaps in trauma-informed practices; and developing and implementing a data-driven strategic plan to support students' social-emotional learning and mental health.

Fifty-two schools participated in the REACH program launched last year. The schools formed REACH school teams to implement evidence-informed strategies to promote resiliency and community in their schools.

“Students’ mental health sets the foundation for their classroom success, and the REACH Initiative will strengthen the ability of all our districts to respond to the social-emotional needs of their students and staff,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “As we move forward from the challenges of the pandemic, helping our children process this experience and restoring their learning must sit at the heart of every action. And for months, my administration has been working hand-in-hand with school administrators across the state to ensure the $7 billion dedicated to renewing K-12 learning for Illinois students properly addresses this long period of disruption and devastation. Together, with our incredible educators at the forefront, we are revitalizing our classrooms, student by student, for the betterment of all of Illinois.”

“Our initial partnership with the Center for Childhood Resilience allowed us to learn a lot about districts’ needs – from destigmatizing mental health care for educators to evidence-based approaches to addressing students’ trauma,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for more resources and attention directed at mental health and social-emotional well-being for both our students and education practitioners. Attending to these needs is an essential part of academic success and must come first if we are to help students learn and grow to their fullest potential. We are excited to expand our partnership with this preeminent children’s mental health organization, so we can deliver effective, sustainable, and localized supports to Illinois schools.”

"Every major child mental health organization has declared youth mental health a national public health emergency,” said REACH Project Director Mashana Smith, Ph.D., a psychologist and mental health consultant with CCR and an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The REACH statewide initiative prepares and empowers schools to strengthen trauma-responsive practices that meet the social and emotional needs of students and the invaluable educators who serve them. The REACH initiative will build upon already existing school supports and introduce new supports to leverage the critical role of educators in shaping the resilience and mental and emotional health of students across the State of Illinois."

CCR and its statewide partners, the Stress and Trauma Treatment Center and the Partnership for Resilience, are training dedicated staff at the social-emotional learning (SEL) hubs. The hubs are available to assist schools by providing professional development, training, and support to districts in their region to establish and expand SEL programs.

The hubs are located within six Regional Offices of Education :

All school districts participating in the REACH initiative have the opportunity to join a community of practice, through which they may collaboratively learn best practices for trauma-responsive policies and practices.

These new mental health initiatives are funded with $17.5 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief II funds.

The expansion of the REACH initiative builds on the state's ongoing commitment to support mental health and social-emotional development and resources already available, including:

  • Community Partnership Grants totaling $86.4 million that fund partnerships between school districts and community health providers to address the trauma that students and educators have experienced during the pandemic.
  • A $1 million mental health grant for four high-need school districts to increase access to mental health services.
  • REACH virtual learning available to all Illinois educators and taken by more than 4,400 educators so far on the impact of trauma on children and adolescents, the intersection between race and trauma, crisis response strategies, educator self-care, and schoolwide policies and classroom practices to build resiliency among students.
  • Public Act 102-0321, effective Jan. 1, 2022, which requires school districts to provide students with up to five mental health days as excused absences.

More information about REACH is available on the ISBE website. Schools or districts interested in learning more about the REACH model can reach out to the SEL Hub in their region or email REACH@luriechildrens.org.

 

About CCR

The Center for Childhood Resilience, housed at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is dedicated to promoting access to high-quality mental health services for children and adolescents across Illinois and nationwide. CCR, which was founded in 2004, builds skills of adults who work in schools and youth-serving agencies to foster resilience in the face of adversity. Using innovative, sustainable, culturally attuned, evidence-based strategies, CCR engages schools, school districts, and other youth-serving organizations to implement a public health approach to address the impact of trauma and promote mental health and wellness. CCR evaluates emerging best practices and collaborates with policymakers and communities to promote systems change to reduce health disparities and promote mental health and wellness where children live, learn, and play. For more information on the Center for Childhood Resilience, visit www.childhoodresilience.org.