Back in December 2002, current Attorney General Jim Ryan and an Illinois insurance carrier made a settlement that resulted in a $125 million payment and the creation of a new foundation, the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation (ICHF). This is the only private foundation focused solely on the health needs of children in Illinois, and it’s been targeting some health issues that often get overlooked.
Two of the most recent efforts from this suburban Oak Brook-based funder are supporting pediatric dentistry and children’s mental health. Not only do these commitments stand out because of their niche focuses, but also because they are big ones—$2 million and $11.5 million respectively.
Children’s Oral Health Funding
ICHF awarded a $2 million grant to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry to build a pediatric ambulatory surgery center. Children with Medicaid coverage often have to wait up to three years for dental procedures that require general anesthesia. There’s a wait list of more than 1,300 children right now because there aren’t enough operating rooms to serve them.
“Far too many Illinois children don’t receive the dental care they need,” said Heather Alderman, the president of the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation. “This situation is unconscionable when you consider how treatable and preventable these diseases are.”
While this grant is significant and taps into recent research commissioned by the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation and Michael Reese Health Trust, ICHF’s support for kids’ dental health is nothing new. In fact, it has been giving to children’s oral health programs since 2004, citing the fact that oral health is still one of the biggest unmet needs among underserved children in Illinois. The funder’s strategy for children’s overall health is to support groups that build the capacity of the safety net system, increase the number of professionals who provide care to underserved children, and create more awareness about the importance of children’s oral health.
Children’s Mental Health Funding
Another major topic of interest for ICHF lately is children’s mental health, as the funder recently committed $11.5 million to the issue in five Illinois communities, with most of this money set to flow only after the completion of successful planning processes. Statistics show that at least one in 10 children suffers from mental illness to the point of impairment at some point during childhood, but that only about 20 percent of these children actually receive mental health care.
Amy Starin, the ICHF senior program officer for mental health, said:
As a field, we know the best approaches to caring for children with behavioral and emotional problems, and early intervention is key. Each community in Illinois is unique and these grants will give them the resources to plan together. It is the start of what we hope will be a successful implementation of their plan over the following six years.
In addition to these two major focuses, other areas of emerging interest for ICHF are children’s lead poisoning and treatment adherence for children with chronic illnesses. Since 2002, the funder has awarded over $79 million in grants for children’s health.