Behavioral Health Advocates “Strongly Urge” Rauner, Lawmakers to Reach Budget Deal

(Springfield, IL) – A top Illinois behavioral health advocate group has called on Illinois’ elected leaders to move swiftly to approve a full state budget.

In a November 14 letter to Governor Bruce Rauner and all 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association CEO Marvin Lindsey “strong urged” the state’s leaders to craft a budget deal.

“For the sake of children, youths and adults with mental illnesses and substance use disorders and those organizations who provide treatment and care, we strongly urge you and the General Assembly to come together and find agreement on a fully funded Fiscal Year 2017 budget,” Lindsey wrote in his letter to Rauner. “CBHA would like to convey to you the importance for you and the General Assembly to pass a fully funded FY’17 budget during this veto session.”

In his letter to lawmakers, Lindsey raised the alarm that constituents were being put on waiting lists or forced to travel long distances for care because of program shutdowns during the FY 2016 budget impasse.

“During FY’16, constituents in your district and other districts across the state seeking help for their mental illness and/or substance use disorders were put on waiting lists or, at times, told that they would have to seek care outside of their community because the budget impasse forced providers in their community to reduce or shut down programs and services,” Lindsey wrote.

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Advocates: $1.3 Million Fed Mental Health Outreach Grant to Illinois Will Be “Helpful”

CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey
CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey

(Springfield, IL) – The Illinois Department of Insurance has snagged a $1.3 million federal grant that will be used to boost healthcare provider outreach focusing on parity in mental health, addiction treatment, and preventative health services. The grant was welcomed by a top advocate group.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to further our Administration’s coordinated efforts on mental health,” Acting Insurance Department Director Anne Melissa Dowling said.  “We are always searching for opportunities to raise awareness that our Department is here to help Illinoisans. These funds will help extend our outreach.”

The new outreach money will be “helpful” to reaching Illinois residents in need of behavioral healthcare, but who may be “resistant” to coming forward, says Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois CEO Marvin Lindsey.

“Whenever resources become available to reach out to individuals who may need either mental health care or drug treatment, that’s helpful to them and their community,” said Lindsey. “Individuals who need behavioral healthcare are unaware of their rights and sometimes resistant to seeking help because of stigma; so, the extra outreach and educational  efforts can help.”

A portion of the grant will go to the Office of Consumer Health Insurance (OCHI) in order to improve data tracking and consumer complaint analysis. It will also help in increasing awareness of the internal and external appeals processes for health insurance consumers.  The grant will allow the state to develop community-focused health insurance consumer education for Illinois residents.

Through the grant, the state’s insurance agency will work with health plans, consumers, and providers to ensure that mental health parity compliance is understood and achieved.

“I am committed to furthering this collaboration to achieve mental health parity in the commercial health care system by collaborating with my colleagues as well as with the provider community in Illinois,” said Dowling.

Earlier this month, Governor Bruce Rauner announced the submission of a 1115 Medicaid waiver proposal to the federal government to allow Illinois to use health care strategies to help rebuild the state’s behavioral health care system that has been battered by multiple years of state budget cuts to mental health and drug treatment and prevention services.