CBHA Adds Racial Equity to ‘Treatment Plan’ Agenda

(Springfield, IL) – Commemorating the close of Black History Month, the Community Behavioral Health Association of Illinois is officially adding “racial equity” to our ‘treatment plan’ agenda.

“The popular belief, ‘Knowing is not enough, we must do’, is what motivates the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association and its members to take a very direct and focused approach in making significant change in the areas of race, equity and social justice,” said Julie Rodriguez, Chair of the CBHA Committee on Race, Equity and Social Justice. “Together we will take the critically needed steps to fully realize our CBHA vision, which is to ensure an accessible, consumer and family responsive, efficient, effective, fully unified and principled healthcare system.”

“Equity” and “inclusion” will become additional and essential elements of the trade association’s advocacy agenda.

“The Community Behavioral Healthcare Association is committing itself to advocating for policy and culture changes, which will promote equity and inclusion,” said Theresa Nihill, Board President of CBHA.  “Our next steps will be to create and implement a plan of action that will be adopted by the CBHA Board of Directors.”

Eliminating “disparities” in public health will be the chief policy goal.

“One of the main tenets of public health is to limit and eliminate disparities,” said CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Viewing racism as a public health crisis will help us to focus on the impact it has on the physical, mental and spiritual health of people and communities and develop solutions and strategies to prevent and improve systems.”

As a key first step, the Springfield-based advocacy group has crafted a “Race Equity and Social Justice Statement” to help guide their advocacy at the state capitol:

As we come to the end of Black History Month 2021, our association is very much aware that each year certain vestiges of the past are carried into each new year- some good, some bad. Unfortunately, the lingering legacy of embeddedsystemic and structural discrimination faced daily by racially and ethnically diverse communities will continue into the new year. It has never been clearer that racism has a profound impact on the mental and physical health of individuals and their communities, and This is Why We Must continue to lend our voice and actions to fairness, dignity, and respect for ALL People.  

 The CBHA Board of Directors established the CBHA Committee on Race, Equity and Social Justice to ensure that our association continues our focused work on speaking out against and working to change the policies, systems, culture, and institutions that have continued to allow and, in many cases, actively perpetuate the discriminatory practices that result in mistreatment, mass-incarceration, exclusion, health disparities, poverty and sometimes, murder of Black and Latinx men, women and children in our society. 

Our association supports the position of the American Medical Association and a growing list of other institutions, states and  municipalities – including Cook, Lake and Peoria Counties in Illinois- that view racism as a public health crisis. 

Common elements in the declarations and resolutions of the above entities include: 

  • acknowledging the effects of intergenerational racism on population health, especially anti-Black racism, 
  • assessing governments’ internal policies and procedures with a racial equity lens, 
  • advocating for laws and regulations that center and promote racial equity, 
  • ensuring inclusivity and diversity in leadership, workforce, hiring and contracting,  
  • promoting educational efforts and support the development of policy to address and dismantle racism, 
  • identifying clear goals and objectives, including specific benchmarks to assess progress and,
  • securing adequate resources for anti-racism activities.

As community mental health and substance use agencies across Illinois, the members of CBHA are committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in the work we do collectively and as individual organizations. We feel obligated to call out racism as a public health issue that is wrecking lives and communities across Illinois. 

For example, “In 312 of the 326 Illinois school districts where disparities could be calculated, black students were at least twice as likely to be disciplined as white students. In 59 districts, black students were more than 10 times as likely to be disciplined.” ProPublica

The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted racial and ethnic disparities in access to behavioral health care. While their rates of behavioral health disorders may not significantly differ from the general population, Blacks and Latinos have substantially lower access to mental health and substance-use treatment services as shown below. (NSDUH, 2020).

Black and African American people are more often diagnosed with schizophrenia and less often diagnosed with mood disorders compared to white people with the same symptoms and that can lead to inappropriate treatment.Additionally, they are offered medication or therapy at lower rates than the general population. NPR Illinois.

Blacks and Latinos have limited access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for substance use disorders. While they have similar rates of opioid misuse as the general population, in recent years Blacks have experienced the greatest increase in rate for overdose deaths from non-methadone synthetic opioids (SAMHSA, 2020).

Black women are up to four times more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than white women.

The root causes of racism are active and systemic, so our solutions must be as well. CBHA is committed to deepening the community’s understanding of racism and the actions we can take individually and collectively to recognize and disrupt bias, challenge our own norms and practices, and support other organizations in doing the same.

Marvin Lindsey, Mlindsey@cbha.net

As Budget Axe Looms, 82,000 Added to Illinois Mental Health, Addiction Treatment Rolls

(Springfield, IL) –  As Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois lawmakers grapple with a $3.9 billion budget gap, the state’s Medicaid rolls in 2020 have “exploded” with an estimated 82,000 additional people with mental health or addiction problems enrolling in the federal/state healthcare plan, according to a top behavioral health advocacy group.

According to the latest data available for Illinois Medicaid enrollees, as of November 2020, Illinois had 2,536,996 people enrolled compared to 2,126,493 in December 2019, an increase of 410,503 individuals or a 19.3% jump.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has a standard measure that one-in-five Medicaid enrollees have behavioral health issues, a measure which yields approximately 82,100 new clients with mental health or addiction treatment needs in 2020, according to Community Behavioral Health Care Association CEO Marvin Lindsey.

“Statewide, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Medicaid caseload has exploded, and community behavioral health providers have also witnessed an exploding caseload, sometimes as much as 30 to 40% at local agencies,” said Lindsey. “With 82,000 new behavioral clients seeking care, Governor Pritzker and lawmakers need to be thinking about how they can help us financially to meet the overwhelming demand for services not hurt us with budget cuts.”

To provide context to the surging caseload in 2020, Lindsey noted that in the comparable period of December 2018 to November 2019, Illinois Medicaid rolls actually dropped from 2,168,091 to 2,126,493 or a 1.2% decline.

Meanwhile, the Illinois opioid crisis for example remains a crisis, with a record number of overdoses in 2020, Lindsey notes.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health data, opioid overdose deaths rose 36.5% in the first five months of 2020 from 197 deaths in January to 269 deaths.

The increasing number of suicides across the state also demand immediate action. For example, DuPage County saw a 23% increase in the first 6 months of 2020, while Cook County’s Black Community experienced 71 suicides in the first 9 months of 2020, compared to 56 in all of 2019.

“COVID has caused an avalanche of cases to crash into a chronically underfunded, understaffed state behavioral system further brutalized financially during the budget impasse years, said Lindsey. “The ‘doing more with less’ ship has sailed, so what we need now, more than ever, is sustainable investments by the state in community-based mental health and substance use services to fight the unyielding opioid epidemic and mental health crisis that continues to rage havoc in families and communities across Illinois.”


Dr. Ngozi Ezike to Be Honored with “Exceptional Leadership” Award at Behavioral Health Conference

(Springfield, IL) – Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike will receive an award next week honoring her COVID-19 “leadership” by a top state behavioral health advocacy group.

Ezike is slated to receive the “Exceptional Leadership and Impact Award” from the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois’ at the group’s 48th annual virtual conference on Tuesday, December 8.

“Since March 2020, Dr. Ezike, has been a constant presence in living rooms across Illinois through her almost daily press conferences to educate millions of residents on both the toll exacted by the coronavirus and the safety measures needed to fight the disease,” said CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Dr. Ezike’s guidance and leadership has been responsible for helping to save the lives of tens of thousands here in Illinois, so our decision to bestow CBHA’s Exceptional Leadership and Impact Award on Dr. Ezike was both easy and unanimous.”

Dr. Ezike will receive the honor before an expected 200 CBHA attendees and address the gathering at approximately 9:00 a.m.

The CBHA conference, whose theme this year is “Reset, Reimagine, Reshape,” runs from December 7 through December 8.


Lt. Gov. Stratton Delivers Opening Remarks at Behavioral Health Conference

(Springfield, IL) – Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton kicks off the annual conference of a top state behavioral health advocacy group on Monday, December 7.

Stratton gives the opening remarks at the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois’ 48th annual, two-day, virtual conference.

“Both as a state lawmaker and as Lt. Governor, Stratton has been a faithful ally and champion for improving access to mental health and substance abuse care and for fighting to end the opioid epidemic,” said CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Having Lt. Governor Stratton open our annual conference is as appropriate as much as it is an honor.”

Stratton, who represented Chicago’s 5th District in the Illinois House, and who is the first African American to hold the Lt. Governor post, currently co-chairs the Opioid Prevention and Recovery Steering Committee.

At approximately 9:10 a.m., Stratton will speak to more than 200 people expected to attend the CBHA conference. 

This year, the conference theme is “Reset, Reimagine, Reshape.” The CBHA conference runs from December 7 through December 8.


As International Overdose Awareness Day Looms, Illinois is Losing the Battle

The Community Behavioral Health Association of Illinois recognizes International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held on 31 August each year, that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose in Illinois alone.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were 2,772 Illinois statewide drug overdose deaths in 2018. Of those, 2,167 (79%) were opioid overdose-related fatalities. Illinois is on pace to far in 2020 to exceed those tragic 2018 overdose numbers.

Counties have been reported unusual spikes in the number of overdose death during the COVID-19 epidemic.  For example, as of today, Cook County is on track to pass 2000 opioid-related overdose deaths for 2020, compared to 605 last year. And much like the coronavirus outbreak, the opioid epidemic has disproportionately (50%) affected African Americans on Chicago’s West and South Sides.

Over the last few years, numerous initiatives in Illinois have been aimed at reducing the number of overdoses. The Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery (IDHS/SUPR) administers the Drug Overdose Prevention Program (DOPP) and the State’s Opioid Action Plan which has been responsible for saving hundreds of lives since 2015. And Community Behavioral Health Association members are on the front lines to implement the state’s plan which is focused on prevention, treatment/recovery, and response.

Regarding social aspects of the recent deaths during the CoVID-10 pandemic, one county health department reported that many who died were living alone, having personal or marital difficulty, suffered from depression or were recently engaged in drug rehab or treatment. With this in mind, CBHA believes Illinois and the behavioral health community have the responsibility – and the opportunity – to develop new strategies and expand on the current activities to address the recent increase in overdoses that are also being fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that overdose death is preventable. We can and must stem the tide of overdoses here in Illinois.

In remembrance and honor of all those who have died of drug overdoses in Illinois, we can and must do more to turn back the tide of overdoses swamping our state.

Marvin Lindsey, CEO, Community Behavioral Health Association of Illinois

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

OP-ED: CBHA Opposes Trump Administration Backdoor Plan to Shrink Medicaid Funding

Op-Ed: The Community Behavioral Healthcare Association strongly opposes caps on federal Medicaid funding, such as block grants, because they pose an enormous threat to the health and well-being of millions of our nation’s must vulnerable citizens, including the over 700,000 Illinoisans who receive lifesaving care through Medicaid expansion.

On January 30th, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its Medicaid block grant proposal under the name “Healthy Adult Opportunity” (HAO). The HAO initiative would give states the option to receive their federal Medicaid funding as a block grant, or a lump sum, to cover nondisabled adults, while providing states more autonomy to manage their programs.

Despite being touted as an opportunity for states to take greater control of their health program, block grants amount to cuts to Medicaid and eventually translating into greater challenges in getting care, including mental health and substance use disorder services, for millions of senior citizens, people with disability, non-disabled adults, and children.

This form of static funding fails to adjust for changes in need such as economic recessions, natural disasters, public health crises, and demographic changes. States would be forced to cut health benefits, limit eligibility, restrict access to prescription drugs, decrease provider reimbursement, precisely when people are hurting the most.

A block grant funding structure undermines the progress that has been made nationally and in Illinois to address opioid overdose deaths and increase access to mental health services.

As the proposed block grant program, if approved, would be optional for states, CBHA joins industry colleagues and advocates in calling on our state elected leaders, including Governor Pritzker, to firmly and quickly denounce the Trump administration’s Medicaid Block Grants plan.

Blanca Campos, MPA

Vice President of Policy & Government Affairs

Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of IL (CBHA)

OP-ED: Illinois’ Failure on Mental Health Funding Has Fueled a Crisis. Fair Tax Fix?

Chronic under-funding combined with a spike in mental health and substance use calamities, such as the opioid epidemic, has created an untenable behavioral health crisis in Illinois. More people than ever need the help of the organizations we represent, yet, the State of Illinois falls tens of millions of dollars short year-after-year to meet these needs. The gap grows, people suffer, and the crisis persists.

We have seen how a financially-starved behavioral health system has harmed Illinois families.

Over the past decade, state government funding for community mental health and substance use has plummeted by a combined $140 million. Every year, community-based mental health and substance use providers are faced with the decision of what services to slash, which staff to fire, or whether they will be able to remain open. All the while, the demand for substance use and mental health services escalates without adequate services available due to relentless state government budget cutting. Meanwhile, Illinois faces a surge in suicides, an explosion in opioid related deaths, and an eruption of children exposed to trauma.

Moreover, Illinois Mental health and substance use providers bled financially during the 2015-2017 budget impasse. Community providers who were ‘lucky’ to tap into their reserves and/or extend bank credit lines – as they simultaneously cut care and created interminable waiting lists – are still struggling with the financial fallout. Other providers were not so lucky to survive. They shut their doors. People lost care.

To be clear, people in need of these services simply don’t disappear when the service disappears. They show up in emergency rooms. They lose their jobs, homes. They lose their kids. They end up in jail – or the morgue.

We must reverse this situation in Illinois. But we must first invest in our mental health and substance use programs and at the same time save the state of Illinois money.

And it starts with the Fair Tax fix.

On behalf of Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois (CHBA), I would like to express our strong support of Governor JB Pritzker’s fair income tax.  CBHA is a statewide association of community behavioral health providers that deliver mental health and addiction treatment, prevention and recovery services to thousands of children, youths, adults and families daily.


By adopting a progressive tax, generating $3.4 billion annually in new revenue, it will provide Governor Pritzker and lawmakers the money needed to invest in our mental health care services. That investment can begin with the governor and the legislature supporting legislation, The Mental Health Modernization Act, House Bill 2486 and Senate Bill 1673, sponsored by State Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

That legislation would steadily increase state investment in mental health treatment over the next four years by $50 million. The measure would also change how the state regulates and funds mental health providers, ensuring they have the means to innovate to meet patients’ needs, and rewarding those providers who produce good health outcomes.

Most of the new funding would come through the state’s Medicaid program, drawing at least a 50% match in federal dollars. That would limit the state’s out-of-pocket cost to no more than $13 million a year over the four years, above what is spent now on mental health treatment.

The Fair Tax would help pay for the investment in the out years.

Governor Pritzker should be applauded for seeking to put Illinois on a more sound financial path with the Fair Tax. We urge the legislature to support it and place it on the ballot. We will stand with many others encouraging Illinoisans to protect and promote a stronger, more just mental health and substance use system funded by the Fair Tax fix.

We cannot afford to fall short any longer.

Marvin Lindsey, CEO of Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois

IL Lawmakers Push 4-Year Plan to Rescue Beleaguered Mental Health Care System

After the historic, two-year Illinois budget impasse financially knee-capped the state’s community mental health providers, derailing care for more than 80,000 individuals, a new legislative plan is being advanced in Springfield by lawmakers and mental health advocates that seeks to provide a long-term financial rescue.

(Springfield, IL) –After the historic, two-year Illinois budget impasse financially knee-capped the state’s community mental health providers, derailing care for more than 80,000 individuals, a new legislative plan is being advanced in Springfield by lawmakers and mental health advocates that seeks to provide a long-term financial rescue.

The legislation, House Bill 2486 and Senate Bill 1673, sponsored by State Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), would steadily increase state investment in mental health treatment over the next four years, by $50 million. The measure would also change how the state regulates and funds mental health

CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey

providers, ensuring they have the means to innovate to meet patients’ needs, and rewarding those providers who produce good health outcomes.

Most of the new funding would come through the state’s Medicaid program, drawing at least a 50% match in federal dollars. That would limit the state’s out-of-pocket cost to no more than $13 million a year over the four years, above what is spent now on mental health treatment.

Advocates and lawmakers pushing for the new focus on mental health treatment funding say the legislation is long overdue, a funding problem compounded by the two-budget impasse that plunged the state’s mental health system into crisis.

“The two-year budget impasse completely destabilized Illinois’ behavioral health system with nearly80,000 residents losing access to mental health,” said Community Behavioral Health Association (CBHA) CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Illinois’ behavioral health system will need 7 to 10 years to recover from the financial body blow inflicted by that self-made crisis, and the legislation proposed by Senator Steans and Rep. Conroy provides a roadmap for financial recovery and long-term investment.”

Tim Sheehan, CBHA’s Chairman of the association’s Public Policy committee and Vice President of Lutheran Social Service of Illinois, highlighted the budget impasse impact.

“During the stalemate, mental health providers across the state received only court-ordered Medicaid dollars, but state grant money was halted, causing layoffs, service cuts, and program shutdowns of those providers across the state,” Sheehan said. “The first casualty of the budget impasse was the Delta Center in Cairo, the poorest city in Illinois, which was forced to closed completely.”

Moreover, Lindsey said that a survey of Illinois community mental health providers during that time showed that 73% had either shut down a program or cut services.

“For far too long, state policymakers have ignored addressing the foundation of the mental health system – Medicaid rates and antiquated state regulations,” said Heather O’Donnell, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy at Thresholds, a major provider of mental health services in the Chicagoland area. “We have focused too much on small pilot projects, but never get at the root of the problem. With these bills, we will finally provide a real solution: improving access to foundational mental health treatment.”

“As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee overseeing human services agencies, I have seen firsthand devastation caused by the Rauner Administration to the state’s already fragile mental health infrastructure,” said Sen. Steans, D-Chicago. “With these proposals, we can change course, work with the Pritzker Administration to create a stronger, more effective and more efficient mental health service delivery system and give families throughout Illinois the treatment resources and support they need and deserve.”

Conroy echoed Steans’ comments.

“Thousands of Illinois families across the state of Illinois are victims of our mental health crisis. For too long, they have had nowhere to turn as the mental health services infrastructure was decimated, particularly over the last four years,” said Rep. Conroy, D-Villa Park, who is chair of the House Mental Health Committee. “By creating a multi-year solution to reinvest and restructure our mental health programs with targeted, federally matched dollars, we can provide renewed hope to the millions affected by our mental health crisis.”

Marvin Lindsey, CEO, CBHA: mlindsey@cbha.net