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DuPage Foundation Program on Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Focused on Education, Awareness, and Removing Stigmas

DuPage Foundation presented a special community educational program and reception, “Transformational Solutions to Community Needs, Part II: Addressing Mental Health Needs & Substance Use Disorder”, the evening of Thursday, May 11, at IBEW Local 701 Hall, in Warrenville.

The 2022 DuPage County Community Needs Assessment showed that one in three DuPage County high school students reported they have experienced anxiety and depression, and the 2022 Illinois Youth Survey showed one in seven reported that they have considered attempting suicide. Nearly 50 percent of DuPage teens reported that they have used alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, or marijuana by their senior year of high school.

At a national level, it is reported that one in five adults live with a mental illness. In 2022, one in three adults reported feeling “their life is slipping out of control,” an indicator often associated with mental health issues, anxiety, and depression.

Substance abuse in DuPage County persists. The DuPage County Coroner reported a 10% increase in overdose deaths during 2022 from the prior year, with increased use of opioid drugs playing a contributing role.

Bob Berlin, DuPage County State’s Attorney, was one of five panelists discussing the importance of removing the stigma related to mental health and substance use disorder. “It all starts with mental health and we need early intervention,” said Berlin. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is a program he supports, and it provides statistical evidence that after school hours are a prime time for juvenile crime, and that quality after-school programs have been proven to help reduce such crime in our communities. “Keeping kids busy is an investment we make now that pays off in the future,” said Berlin.

Joining the State’s Attorney in this special program were: DuPage County Board Chair Deb Conroy; Alive Center Founder & CEO Kandice Henning; Healthcare Alternative Systems, Inc. CEO Marco Jacome; DuPage Foundation Vice President for Programs Barb Szczepaniak; and DuPage Foundation President & CEO Mike Sitrick, who moderated the panel discussion.

The panelists discussed how their institutions are collaborating to provide transformational solutions to some of our community’s most significant challenges.

“In partnership with the DuPage County Board, our Health Department and treatment providers, we are making mental health diagnosis and treatment a priority,” said DuPage County Board Chair Deb Conroy. “While our County offers many programs that make an important difference, we know there are gaps in service. For example, there are too few treatment options for children, and families don’t know where to go.” Plans for a new Behavioral Health Crisis hub in Wheaton were recently revealed by public health officials in DuPage County. The facility will focus entirely on mental health and substance use care. “We are planning an accessible, public mental health treatment center that can help adults and youth receive appropriate diagnoses and sustainable, effective treatment plans. We envision a ‘best-in-class’ facility that keeps people out of hospital emergency rooms and jail. It’s important that adults and youth in need can receive these vital services right here, in their own community, with professionals dedicated to their long-term wellness.”

Sustainably addressing issues of mental health and substance use disorder in DuPage County requires awareness, advocacy, and support from civic-minded leaders throughout the community. By working together, our community can create positive, lasting change in the lives of kids, teens, and adults with mental health issues; build preventive systems to aid individuals before they fall into a crisis; and ensure resources are available to provide treatment.

Special thanks to venue partner, Power Forward DuPage, and to the LeFort-Martin Family Donor-Advised Fund and the Sullivan Taylor Family Fund of DuPage Foundation for defraying the cost of the program.

About the DuPage County Transformation Partnership

The DuPage Community Transformation Partnership (DCTP) – a $10 million grant program between DuPage County and DuPage Foundation – supports social service not-for-profit organizations helping DuPage County residents in the areas of food insecurity, housing instability, mental health, and substance abuse. In 2022, the County Board voted to execute an agreement to allocate $10.6 million to DuPage Foundation in federal funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the grant program. The Foundation received $600,000 to administer the program and disburse the ARPA funds on behalf of the County. To date, nearly $5 million has been awarded in Immediate Intervention and Transformational grants. A complete list of grantees to date is located here. The next round of Immediate Intervention grants will be awarded in July and additional grant opportunities will be offered in 2024.

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