News Local/State

Private Grant Will Enable Expansion Of Children’s Mental Health Services In Decatur


A behavioral health organization that provides services in Decatur and Clinton was recently awarded $2 million to improve mental health services for children.

For several years, the Heritage Behavioral Health Center has worked with Decatur schools to provide mental health services to children.

CEO Candice Clevenger said the new funding will help them expand those efforts.

“We’d like to be able to wrap services around the kids at the earliest age it can be identified,” she said, “so that they don’t struggle the whole time they’re in school.”

The funding comes from the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, a private statewide group that selected five organizations to receive grants totalling more than $11 million.

In a news release, they say the funding is desperately needed in Illinois, where only 20 percent of children with mental illness receive mental health services.  

Clevenger said for the first year, they will partner with Decatur schools and other organizations to identify the communities’ greatest needs pertaining to children’s mental health.

“We’re recognizing that trauma plays a big part in what’s going on with kids,” she said. “So we’re going to be educating people about trauma-informed care.”

Clevenger said they plan to implement a screening tool doctors can use to identify children who need services. They will also hire additional staff, including more counselors to work in the elementary schools.

The goal is to make the efforts sustainable, so that the services continue after the grant runs out.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman