Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Illinois to launch portal streamlining access to youth mental health services

Illustration by Isabel Su
The Behavioral Health Care and Ongoing Navigation portal will make it easier for families to identify the behavioral and mental health services for which their children are eligible.

The Illinois Department of Human Services and Google Public Sector will launch a new online portal by July 3 to streamline family access to youth behavioral and mental health resources.

The state is creating the Behavioral Health Care and Ongoing Navigation portal as one of its 12 strategies to address youth mental health from a report released last year by the Illinois Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative, created by Governor J.B. Pritzker in 2022.

Through BEACON, families will be able to upload their children’s required documentation and learn about the resources their children will be eligible to receive. Families will also be able to request resource navigators, who would support them in finding appropriate resources for their children.

The state’s departments for human services, healthcare and family services, children and family services, juvenile justice and public health will all be connected to BEACON, as will the Illinois State Board of Education. 

“The new BEACON system will help (the Department of Juvenile Justice) coordinate services with other state agencies for the children in our care and will expedite access to the behavioral health services they need,” DJJ Interim Director Rob Vickery said in an email to The Daily.

BEACON builds on a rudimentary portal launched in June 2022 for the six child-serving state agencies to securely communicate with each other and expedite access to services, all with families’ consent.

The new portal will promote more equitable access to those services, according to Dana Weiner, chief officer for the CBHTI.

“The development of the BEACON tool is informed by the diverse perspectives of people with lived experience,” Weiner said. “The blueprint itself outlines strategies that have to do with redistributing resources and community-based services to the areas that need them the most.”

The initiative’s report also recommends improving coordination and oversight for those services, adjusting facility and program capacities and promoting earlier interventions for behavioral or mental health challenges like universal mental health screenings in schools and pediatric offices.

Illinois will also create “resource referral technology” to more directly connect families to service providers. This technology is expected to be developed in the next 12 to 18 months and will eventually be connected to BEACON, Weiner said.

Google Public Sector will protect privacy by ensuring all information transmitted through BEACON is encrypted and accessible only to “relevant state employees so they can make informed decisions and be accountable for the outcomes,” Director of Public Sector Engineering Chris Hein said in an email to The Daily.

BEACON will be powered by artificial intelligence and cloud computing technology from Google Cloud. The tool will use AI algorithms to more efficiently match people to relevant services, but AI will not replace interpersonal interactions involving healthcare providers and other employees, Weiner added.

“Right now, all of these people spend a lot of time looking for things and trying to figure out all of the complex eligibility criteria to link families with services,” she said. “If we can use technology to do that, then people can spend time helping people.”

Email: [email protected]

X: @edwardsimoncruz

Related Stories:

After 988, advocates say localities still need trained responders

City Council hears updates on mental health programs in Evanston

Mental healthcare providers reflect on World Mental Health Day

More to Discover