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Sharing goals to transform services in Illinois and Northern Ireland for children and young people

Among the presentations delivered by Chapin Hall on our recent visit to Chicago, the QCAP team were privileged to hear from Dr Dana Wiener on her policy report ‘Blueprint for Transformation’ which was commissioned by the Governor of Illinois in response to a nationwide youth mental health crisis.

The methodological and implementation science aspects of this work were relevant to almost all of our QCAP activity which was reflected in the highly interactive question and answer session. Dr Emma Loudon from the QCAP team highlighted the synergies with Northern Ireland which is experiencing a similarly concerning increase in youth mental health. The most recent prevalence study showed that 12.6% of children and young people in NI experience common mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, which is around 25% higher than other UK jurisdictions (Bunting et al, 2020). Related research indicates continued challenges in providing effective family focused interventions to improve outcomes for children and families (Grant et al, 2018; Loudon, 2021)

The potential of the ‘Blueprint for Transformation’ to apply to continued work in NI was explored.


Key actions for consideration were as follows.


  1. Adjust capacity—so that there are enough of the services we need
  2. Streamline processes—so that services can be easily accessed
  3. Intervene earlier—so that acute crises can be prevented
  4. Increase accountability—so that there is transparency in service delivery
  5. Develop agility—so that systems can be responsive to the changing needs of the youth population

Among the findings the report suggested that interagency communication was a key issue both legislatively, as agencies could not legally communicate with each other due to data protection and practically as their data systems did not communication. This initiative, in a demonstration of the practical changes it has delivered, developed a collaborative data sharing system for multiple services to communicate about children accessing services. A further finding from Dr Weiner’s report relevant to our experience in NI was the need for a centralised resource for families seeking services for children. Navigating this area can be confusing and time consuming for families. The introduction of the Family support hubs by the DOH is one attempt to solve this problem. Our work at QCAP is exploring community level ‘pathways’ and health navigators as ways in which to more effectively signpost those seeking support.

We observed history in the making and a milestone step for Illinois and our research colleagues at Chapin Hall as the bill containing these legislative recommendations was being heard in the senate on the morning of the presentation. A truly inspiring learning opportunity for the QCAP team on policy driven research.

Further information on Dr Weiner’s ‘Blueprint for transformation’ can be found at the link below: