Written by: Judy Howard, LCSW

Judy Howard
Judith Howard, LCSW

I’m honored to be chairing the program committee of the 2022 TCOM Conference: Managing Change and All that Jazz in New Orleans. This position is the culmination of my CANS journey, which started in the early 2000s when Illinois child welfare first adopted a version of the tool. Since then, Illinois has implemented other versions across other disciplines, including the current version used by behavioral health providers across our state – the Illinois Medicaid  Comprehensive Assessment of Needs and Strengths (IM+CANS), which is a lifespan tool that integrates CANS and ANSA items.  

My career has spanned both child welfare and behavioral health, with settings ranging from private agencies, academic and research to large state agency policy work, and has grown from direct service into senior-level administration and large-scale evaluations. In my prior position, I worked for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (the state Medicaid agency, referred to as HFS) as the senior administrator for behavioral health policy. In that role, I was lucky enough to partner with the amazing Dr. John Lyons and April Fernando, and a wonderful team of Medicaid behavioral health experts to help Illinois design the IM+CANS.

Provider Assistance and Training Hub logo
Provider Assistance and Training Hub (PATH) logo

I am currently the Assistant Director of Training, Operations and Evaluation for the Provider Assistance and Training Hub (PATH) at the UIUC School of Social Work. When we started this partnership in 2018 with HFS and the University of Illinois, we were just a small CANS training office with 9 staff. We are now a 35 member strong behavioral health Training and Technical Assistance Center. From our inception, the mission has always been to support and implement a variety of behavioral health changes as part of Illinois’ commitment to improving services across the state. When we began, our initial focus was collaborating with Praed to implement the IM+CANS statewide to all Medicaid enrolled behavioral health providers, which includes all Community Mental Health Centers, Behavioral Health Clinics and Independent Practitioners. Today, that focus remains, but we have grown beyond simple implementation into coaching and support as well as training and are beginning to move into data collection with the arrival of our CANS portal.

Like every implementation project, PATH’s journey has been a roller-coaster ride. Along the way, the CANS tools have been embraced by some and challenged by others. The CANS tools serve as the baseline for all the behavioral health changes in Illinois, and there are many changes still to come. We will be in the midst of this process for a while. But we aren’t alone. My team and I have had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Lyons and his team of experts, but also from so many of the folks who attend this conference. Many of you have graciously shared your own implementation journeys and experiences and provided us with many great ideas which we have adopted, and hopefully integrated well. I’ve had the opportunity to share the Illinois experience at TCOM conferences in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and other members of the PATH team have presented on a variety of TCOM related topics in 2020 and 2021. I sincerely hope that some of the lessons learned in Illinois’ journey have been of assistance to others who are pursuing their own CANS journeys.         

I invite you to submit a proposal to the program committee. We want to hear your experiences, your data, your lessons learned. And please- consider attending this year’s conference. What we glean from the program presentations enriches us all, as does the opportunity to collaborate and network informally with so many of our colleagues.   Let’s make this the best TCOM conference ever!

Contact information:

Contact Judy Howard:

Contact PATH:

Contact Praed Foundation:

Additional Resources:

2022 TCOM Conference: 18th Annual TCOM Conference: Managing Change and All That Jazz

Submit Proposal: 2022 TCOM Conference – Call for Proposals

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