Network Coordinator: Maureen Sollars (309) 888-5539 email@example.com
Family Engagement Specialist: Catrina Parker 309/888-5443 firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: McLean County Health Department
200 W Front St, 3rd Floor
Bloomington, IL 61701
McLean County: Reducing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Together as Community
The McLean County All Our Kids Early Childhood Network is ensuring that more pregnant women and families with young children have all they need to flourish in the community. The AOK Network collaborates with partners to improve the system of services offered to families, so kids may enter kindergarten safe, healthy, ready to succeed, and eager to learn. The Network connects caregivers to supports to manage mood and anxiety and to care for their children in a healthy household. Research shows that as more parents feel healthy and well, their children can live safely in homes free from abuse and neglect.
McLean County is a mix of urban and rural communities located in the center of the state, where Interstates 55, 74, and 39 intersect. The largest geographic county in Illinois, McLean County is a well-educated community with State Farm Insurance serving as the area’s largest employer. Bloomington-Normal, population 131,400, makes up 75% of the county’s population. The other 25% is rural, comprised of farms, forests, and communities with 4,000 or less people.
The AOK Network led a Community System Assessment in 2018 and discovered that the county’s rate of indicated and confirmed reports of child abuse and neglect is higher than the state’s overall rate. Through parent surveys, the team learned that 12% to 18% of parents reported “feeling down, depressed, or hopeless in the last 30 days.” They also discovered that few mental health providers offered services focused upon perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Research finds that poor parental mental health can be a significant risk factor for child abuse and neglect. The AOK Network now addresses parental mental health and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders through three strategies: communications campaign, training and professional development, and referral networks.
The AOK Network brought together providers and families with very young children at four Community Forums on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) to share education and networking opportunities. Providers and families asked that proactive educational materials about perinatal mental health during pregnancy be given routinely at OB and well-child medical visits. The AOK Network created and distributed a PMAD Infographic with mental health resources to OBs and pediatricians in the county.
The AOK Network also sent mental health and human service providers to a national training focused on supporting individuals experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD). More than 25 professionals serving McLean County families participated in this two-day training. The AOK Network expanded the work, offering two webinars connecting fathers to PMAD insights. The AOK Network will next offer practical support to parents of very young children without PMAD who may be feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.
IRIS, a web-based referral system, is also strengthening the community system to support parents with PMAD by allowing health & human service providers to make referrals more efficiently. IRIS removes barriers for parents by placing the referral responsibility on to the provider. Parents are called by the agency staff, who follow up on referrals. This “warm touch” can help parents, who may be down, depressed, or hopeless, get connected without much effort.
The AOK Network is seeing improvements to the local community system. Recent highlights from 2018 to 2022 include:
- 8 mental health providers report serving women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders–up from one
- More OBs are making referrals for post-partum depression thanks to coordinated engagement and professional development
- A PMAD education resource is being shared with parents by four medical offices and a majority of Home Visitors; resources are also in Mental Health First Aid resource packets
- 185 people participated in community engagement, training and networking events on PMAD
- Targeted outreach to address fatherhood and engaged more than 140 people
- 62 people participated in webinars focused upon helping parents and caregivers support children who are experiencing anxiety.
The commitment from the local community system to build a stronger, more coherent set of support for parents with young children who are experiencing PMAD remains a vital part of the McLean County AOK Network. Through education resources, networking & professional development, and coordinated referrals, more parents are being helped than before.