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CHICAGO – State Senator Mike Simmons joined U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. Allison Arwady, Dr. Colleen Cicchetti, Chicago youth, and local leaders Thursday to speak on the mental health crisis faced by children in Illinois and what can be done to provide support and eliminate stigma.

“The mental health of our young people is paramount to our society. It is my goal to elevate their voices and center their experiences in my legislative work,” said Simmons (D-Chicago). “To establish this goal, I launched the People’s Legislative Council Initiative to give our youth the opportunity to speak and help shape policy, while also passing key legislation to remove barriers preventing our youth from accessing mental health care.”

The event consisted of two panels, one where Dr. Murthy was interviewed by local youth leaders, and one where Dr. Murthy interviewed Simmons, Dr. Arwady and Dr. Cicchetti. During this second panel, the leaders were asked about their contributions to support efforts to improve mental health.

Simmons passed a law this year that requires all Illinois K-12 schools to instruct how and where to access mental health resources. Additionally, it creates a Student Mental Health Council comprised of young people who will directly advise policymakers on mental health. The council will include a diverse array of youth as part of these councils, including different racial backgrounds, and sexual orientations and gender identities.

According to Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, in 2019 just over 3,600 people were being seen in Chicago clinics to address their health, of those none were children. In 2022, the city is on track to care for 60,000 people, with an estimated 15,000 being children. Efforts are being put forward to establish clinics in every community regardless of insurance or of a patient’s ability to pay.

Asked by the Surgeon General what gives him hope, Senator Simmons replied, “Mothers still have the nerve to fight for their Black children. Immigrants and refugees still get out of bed every morning and go to jobs that under pay them and won’t give health insurance. It’s these constituents of mine that continue to valiantly struggle to survive that give me hope.”

Simmons will continue to dedicate himself to bettering mental health resources for Illinoisans in all corners of the state.

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