Cook County leaders gathered on November 2, 2022, to celebrate the addition of a behavioral health social worker at Arlington Heights Health Center. This position represents one of the many mental health professionals Cook County Health intends to hire to expand behavioral health services across the system.
“Mental health is inextricably linked to a person’s overall health and well-being. We know that conditions like depression increase the risk for many types of physical health problems, including long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I am pleased to see that essential roles are being filled to address our communities’ needs and improve the health of Cook County residents.”
The need for behavioral health services increased significantly during the pandemic. An article published in The Lancet estimated that global cases of major depressive and anxiety disorders increased by more than 25 percent in 2020.
“We must move toward a future where mental health care is destigmatized. I believe that behavioral health services must be accessible and affordable. This is a major step in reaching that goal,” said Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison (15th District).
Cook County directed $160 million American Rescue Plan funding to expand access to health care and social services at Cook County Health. Approximately $111 million of those dollars are budgeted for behavioral health care initiatives.
“Here at Cook County Health we are embracing the integrated behavioral health model which incorporates mental health care right where it should be, in a person’s primary care medical home,” said Israel Rocha, Cook County Health CEO.
The health system’s behavioral health social workers work hand-in-hand with patients and their doctors to address conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD. They provide individual counseling and can connect patients with other available community resources. Approximately $5.2 million ARPA funding will be used to support the hiring of additional behavioral health social workers at all Cook County Health locations.
“We plan on expanding the services we provide at our community health centers, including adding behavioral health experts with specialized experience in caring for patients with substance use disorders, eating disorders as well as serving children and adolescents,” said Iliana Mora, Chief Administrative Officer for Ambulatory Services at Cook County Health.
ARPA funding is also supporting a new behavioral health grant program administered by the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) under the Building Healthy Communities initiative. A total of $14 million will be made available to community-based organizations and providers over the course of four years to expand mental health and substance use prevention, treatment and support in suburban Cook County. The deadline to apply for a grant is December 7, 2022. CCDPH is offering workshops to guide interested organizations through the application process. For more information, visit BHCOpenCall.com.