Jan 30, 2024 - News

Illinois partners with Google to simplify mental health care access

A computer keyboard and mouse attached to a medical case.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Illinois is working with Google to make it easier for young people to access mental health services.

Why it matters: One in five U.S. adolescents experienced a major depressive disorder in 2021, but fewer than half of those who needed treatment received it, per a study published last fall in JAMA Pediatrics.

  • It takes, on average, 11 years — from onset of symptoms to care — for a child to receive mental health treatment, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in Senate testimony last year.

Driving the news: Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday announced the launch of Illinois' Beacon mental health services portal, a first-in-the-nation partnership with Google Public Sector aimed at streamlining access to the services.

  • "We are doing away with decentralized, difficult-to-navigate behavioral health resources scattered across different agencies, providers and websites," Pritzker said in a statement.

Context: The move follows a 2023 report that identified ways to improve the accessibility, capacity and quality of youth mental health care in Illinois.

How it works: Powered by what Google calls "human-centered AI," the portal will offer an online hub for uploading a child's documents rather than making caregivers resend them to multiple agencies and institutions.

  • It will also offer a single entry point to pursue multiple avenues of care and services, officials say.

What's next: The portal is expected to go online this summer.

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