(Springfield, IL) – The Illinois House has given its unanimous backing to a legislative plan that would create a student loan repayment program for behavioral health professionals who commit to working in the state’s rural and underserved areas.
The House approved 101-0 legislation, House Bill 5109 sponsored State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), to provide student loan assistance to eligible mental health and substance abuse professionals practicing in community mental health centers in underserved or in rural communities designated by the federal government as professional shortage areas.
According to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, Illinois has the 6th largest number of mental health professional shortage areas in the U.S. with 85 of 102 counties in Illinois having areas designated shortages.
“Illinoisans who need mental health counseling can wait up to three months or longer before they see a specialist due to a severe behavioral health workforce shortage,” said Community Behavioral Health Association of Illinois C.E.O. Marvin Lindsey. “As Illinois faces an ongoing opioid crisis and a reemergence of meth usage in Southern Illinois, the state’s behavioral workforce shortage cripples our response to the crisis.”