Top Illinois Behavioral Health Advocates Join 50-State Virtual Conference

(Springfield, IL) – Led by the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, behavioral health care organizations throughout Illinois will participate in a two-day advocacy event next week – Hill Day at Home ­–  drawing more than 2,500 attendees from all 50 states and showcasing the impact of the COVID-19 health pandemic on behavioral health care providers.

The June 23-24 is organized by the National Council for Behavioral Health.

“This important event gives us an opportunity each year to advocate for bipartisan solutions to help providers in our state and throughout the country deliver life-saving treatment and services to people coping with mental illness or substance use disorders,” said Blanca Campos, Vice President of Policy & Government Affairs at Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois (CBHA).

This year, the annual event – Hill Day at Home – will occur virtually.

 “We may be apart, but behavioral health care providers nationwide are united in our efforts,” National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia said. “We have a record number of attendees this year because our members face incredible challenges and understand the importance of advocacy. No matter where our members participate from this week, we stand together in efforts to work with Congress on bipartisan solutions.”

Hill Day at Home will include discussions to provide guidance on providing treatment and services throughout the pandemic. Clients have faced incredible barriers to access due to the pandemic, but behavioral health care providers have responded to the challenge by leveraging telehealth solutions.

“Changes in state and federal telehealth regulations since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have accommodated the movement of behavioral health care treatment and services online, and clients have benefited greatly as a result of providers’ ability to shift to virtual delivery of services,” said Campos.

In Illinois, National Council for Behavioral Health members operate Community Mental Health Centers and Substance Use Treatment Centers, which transform the lives of thousands of individuals, youth, and families each year, notes Campos.

Hill Day attendees will hear experts discuss telehealth in a session titled “Telehealth During COVID: The Pros, Cons and Next Steps.” Additional workshops will address eliminating barriers to access for those in need of behavioral health care. The National Council for Behavioral Health will recognize Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Rep. David Trone (D-Maryland) with Legislator of the Year awards for their work on bipartisan solutions.

The National Council for Behavioral Health represents 3,326 organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions.

Learn more about Hill Day here. A full schedule of events is here.

OP-ED: Action Must Replace “Statements” on Racial, Healthcare Injustice

OP-ED: We, behavioral healthcare workers, are fortunate to work in an industry where we are guided by broad ethical principles that includes a code of ethics centered around social justice, dignity and worth of the person. We provide care and advocate for all people – no matter what race, financial status, religion, or mental illness.

However, our industry is, as we know, imperfect. Why? Because we operate within a society that has long minimized the worth of certain people, minimized their healthcare, and minimized certain illnesses, such as mental health. Such minimization is no longer tolerable.

As CEO of the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association and as an African-American man, a host of emotions have swept over me as a result of the events surrounding the killing of George Floyd. I thought about writing a “CBHA statement” as other organizations have done that condemns institutional racism, the resulting mental health issues that follow, and the pile-on discrimination of mental illness. A brutal, unbroken circle. While such institutional statements have their place, for some reason, an institutional “statement” seems, for me, inadequate. The sound of fury must be followed by actions if the fury of words is to have any meaning.

CBHA has and always will be about actions.

The question is: how can CBHA promote social justice, dignity and worth of the person, particularly those who have been marginalized? Answer: CBHA can act boldly and broadly.

Here’s what we, CBHA and behavioral health care providers, can do:

  • We can support and propose and fight unflinchingly for legislation that promotes social justice – including both racial and healthcare justice.
  • We can continue to embrace our association’s By-laws which affirm our commitment to reflecting the society’s diversity in our Board of Directors, staff, and programs.
  • We can lend our voice, our time, our ideas to public policy initiatives, committees or taskforces whose aim is to develop solutions and fight for social and healthcare justice.
  • We can fight like hell against healthcare policies that seek to maintain the status quo or seek to further discriminate against historically marginalized communities.

This is list is by no means exhaustive list. More will follow.

In the meantime, on Thursday, June 4, as CBHA’s representative to a national health disparities task force convened by Centene Corporation, I focused laser-like on the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths and other health disparities suffered by Latinos and Blacks and Native Americans. My intent was simple. I discussed, no –I called it out – the institutional racism and the institutional behavioral healthcare discrimination that our industry faces and sought to identify steps that are urgently needed that Centene can take to move us all toward a more just healthcare system.

We’re just getting started.

Marvin Lindsey, CEO, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association