Survey: $142 Million Owed to Mental Health Providers as Psychiatrist Wait Times Mushroom, Services Shudder

(Springfield, IL) – A new survey by a top behavioral health advocate group reveals that the state of Illinois owes community mental health centers statewide a staggering $142 million in unpaid bills, a debt that is squeezing care for people struggling with mental illness and addiction.

The Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois released on Wednesday a survey of state community mental health providers that shows that these agencies are owed for fiscal year 2017 a total of $142,558,150 or nearly 90% of what has been budgeted for the current fiscal year that expires on June 30.

Moreover, the survey shows that, in Fiscal Year 2016, 73.5% of community agencies had reduced or eliminated behavioral health programs and that in Fiscal Year 2017 an additional 33.7% of agencies further cut or ended services.

“To say that community mental health providers are operating on fumes would be incorrect. They consumed the fumes long ago,” said Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois C.E.O. Marvin Lindsey. “The financial starvation of providers has shriveled our ability to serve an exploding need to the extent that Illinois is fast becoming a behavioral health system Potemkin Village.”

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Ex-Small Biz Lobbyist Tapped for Mental Health Advocate Post, Funding Push

(Springfield, IL) – A veteran small business lobbyist has been hired to help handle state mental health government affairs for a top Illinois behavioral health advocacy group and to push to reverse state funding cuts opposed by Illinois voters.

Blanca Campos, chief operating officer for advocacy at the Illinois Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC) from 2010 through 2016, has been recruited by the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois to help lead the group’s legislative advocacy in Springfield.

Campos, who earned in Masters of Public Administration from DePaul University in Chicago, will serve as CBHA’s behavioral health care advocate associate, according to the group’s chief.

“With seven years of legislative advocacy experience at the Small Business Advocacy Council, Blanca will significantly boost our advocacy fire power in the General Assembly,” said CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Blanca will be able to forcefully deliver to lawmakers not only our behavioral health message, but also our small business message that our members our crucial economics cogs in communities.”

During her work at the business group, Campos led the SBAC’s advocacy efforts to bring intrastate equity crowdfunding to Illinois, and helped pass legislation setting a 10% state procurement goal for small businesses. Prior to working for the SBAC, she worked in state legislative and congressional campaigns.

One of the messages that Campos will be delivering to lawmakers is the voting public’s support for greater investment in mental health care and drug treatment services, says Lindsey.

A July 26 automated poll of 826 likely Illinois voters conducted by Illinois Public Opinion Strategies found that 70.1% back “investing more money in mental health care” while just 11.5% support “investing less money” or a net +59 points. 18.4% were undecided.

The poll also found that 55.4% of likely voters support investing more money to “provide treatment to individuals struggling with drug addiction, such as addiction to heroin” and 27.2% support “investing less money.” 17.4% were undecided.

While mental health and drug treatment funding are strongly backed by voters, state funding for both programs has retreated in the last two years.

In Fiscal Year 2016, state addiction treatment contracts issued to community providers, with money coming from the state’s general revenue fund for drug treatment, were cut 25% from FY 2015 levels. Mental health care contracts saw a 21.8% cut. In 2017, addiction treatment contracts had 21.4% reduction and mental health got a 26.7% cut.

“Blanca will help communicate to lawmakers that their constituents want greater financial investment in behavioral healthcare – not less – and that an investment mandate exists for this human services priority,” said Lindsey. “I think that Blanca will be effective in delivering that message.”

Beyond her business background, Campos has also served on the Women’s Health Awareness Council, a collaborative program coordinated by the Women’s Health Initiative at Swedish Covenant Hospital in partnership with more than 30 elected officials, community leaders, major philanthropies and respected health care providers.

mlindsey@cbha.net