SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Center for Childhood Resilience (CCR) at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Peoria Regional Office of Education today announced a new program to increase mental health supports for Illinois students.
The program, Resilience Education to Advance Community Healing (REACH), will train educators, school mental health professionals, and community members to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma and address students’ social-emotional and mental health needs. CCR will work with 50 schools to assemble REACH teams that will engage in a trauma-responsive needs assessment and develop action plans to address the mental health needs of students and staff.
“Developing resilience in students takes a village,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “REACH teams bring everyone from the village to the table to provide truly wrap-around mental health supports for students. Many students and educators have struggled throughout COVID-19, feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and isolated. Our goal with this partnership is to prevent the ultimate tragedy of a member of our education community taking their life. We appreciate the expertise of Lurie Children’s Center for Childhood Resilience and the opportunity to build the capacity of our students and educators in the critical area of social-emotional wellness.”
COVID-19 has taken a toll on the mental health of young people, according to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide already was a leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, and the rates of suicidal thoughts have increased during the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored that students, families, and communities across our state are exposed to toxic levels of stress and trauma,” said Dr. Colleen Cicchetti, executive director of the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s. “For some, this is a new situation and unfortunately for many, it is a chronic problem. Our communities, health professionals, and educators are investing in models that promote mental wellness for all and link students to supportive adults and services, as needed. Mental health and wellness are the foundation upon which learning, curiosity, and positive development rest. As educators are challenged to teach and connect with students in new ways, we must support these everyday heroes with the tools they need to help Illinois students continue to grow and flourish.”
The partnership will enable CCR to provide all Illinois educators with virtual training on the impact of trauma on children and adolescents, the intersection between race and trauma, crisis response strategies, and schoolwide trauma-responsive policies and classroom practices to build resilience among students. Critically, the virtual training provided by CCR will support educators’ own personal and professional well-being and self-care during COVID-19 and beyond. Educators have reported feeling greater levels of stress and burnout in 2020. The online trainings will be available to all Illinois educators beginning Dec. 4.
In addition to the universally available virtual trainings, 50 Comprehensive and Targeted schools that receive federal Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grants will have the opportunity to create REACH teams. Each team will include teachers, administrators, social workers, and 21stCCLC project personnel and parent mentors. CCR will support the REACH teams in developing and implementing data-driven strategic plans to support students' social-emotional learning and mental health.
The two-year partnership with Lurie Children’s is funded with $800,000 from Illinois’ federal 21st CCLC funding. Peoria Regional Office of Education will help administer the program and will identify additional needs and supports for participating schools.
“As the pandemic continues, federal data suggest that school counselors, psychologists, and social workers may confront overwhelming caseloads,” said Peoria Regional Superintendent Elizabeth Crider. “Our 21st CCLC are already providing social-emotional learning support, so they are well-positioned to serve as the hub to connect mental health programming dots. The REACH initiative can reduce risk and help our students and families grow stronger when facing difficult challenges.”
The REACH initiative builds on the state’s ongoing commitment to support mental health and social-emotional development and expands on resources already available, including:
ISBE maintains and continuously updates a mental health resource page with other 24/7 services for students and educators at www.isbe.net/mentalhealth.
The Illinois State Board of Education is the State Education Agency for Illinois. Our mission is to provide each and every child with safe and healthy learning conditions, great educators, and equitable opportunities by practicing data-informed stewardship of resources and policy development, all done in partnership with educators, families, and stakeholders.
About the Lurie Children’s Center for Childhood Resilience
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 in schools and youth-serving agencies to foster resiliency 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.
About the Peoria Regional Office of Education
The Peoria Regional Office of Education serves the students, educators, and the community of Peoria County. Situated in the heart of west central Illinois, Peoria County has 18 diverse school districts that reflect the entire state in composition. The Peoria Regional Office of Education is primarily a service organization that is committed to culture and climate support so that students coming to our schools have what they need to be successful learners.
For more information:
Phone: (312) 590-4327