Incorporated in 2014, The Youth & Family Peer Support Alliance traces its origin to 2002 when multiple government agencies, community organizations, faith leaders, families, and other concerned citizens partnered together to find a better way to meet the needs of children with mental health challenges and their caregivers.

They approached their task with a “system of care” philosophy, seeking to build collaborations between systems, agencies, and communities to provide families with coordinated, culturally competent services. In 2005, after a period of research and development, the group launched Project Access, a pilot project serving youth with mental health challenges at the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center. In 2009, a new project, ACCESS Initiative, expanded mental health programming for Champaign County in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the Champaign County Mental Health Board.

As federal funding for the ACCESS Initiative wound down, Access staff, volunteers, and other collaborators founded the Youth & Family Peer Support Alliance to address the ongoing needs of the community. New federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is allowing us to expand our reach across the state of Illinois.