OP-ED: Central Illinois Medicaid Managed Care Crisis Shuts Out Mental Health Inpatient Care

OP-ED: – The collapse of the Central Illinois Medicaid Managed network has, effectively, shuttered inpatient psychiatric services for people with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and other mental illnesses at regional hospitals.

The January announcement by Decatur Memorial Hospital that it will terminate its contract with Molina Healthcare of Illinois on March 23, 2017 brings the number to four hospitals (St. Mary’s, Decatur; St. John’s, and Memorial, Springfield) that will no longer accept individuals with Molina Medicaid insurance.

This is a crisis.

Molina patients who are now receiving mental health care in community mental health centers or persons in the area in need of inpatient psychiatric care will now loose that access to care.


The hobbled network of inpatient psychiatric beds in Central Illinois threatens individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or co-occurring mental health/substance use disorder and who need immediate, emergency stabilizing care. That’s why Decatur Memorial’s decision has a created a crisis. Hospital doors are shutting on people with severe mental illness.

What’s the impact?

Community mental health providers in the area have been left to scramble around to find an inpatient placement for someone who is in crisis or on the verge of crisis. The nearest state operated psychiatric hospital, the Jacksonville Developmental Center, has a waiting list. A waiting list for psychiatric crisis. Admittance into Jacksonville can consume days because the Medicaid certified individuals who are provided state psychiatric hospital care receive do not trigger managed care organization reimbursement to the Department of Human Services for the cost of this care.

Because no inpatient psychiatric care is available, individuals often are detained in emergency rooms or other non-psychiatric units for extended periods. Sometimes days. This situation will worsen in this region if the Department of Human Services fails to find a solution. Period.

Failure on the part of the state is not an option.

CBHA urgently recommends that the state act expeditiously on its own announcement rolled last September to allow Meridian Health Plan to begin covering persons with Medicaid in central Illinois. We agree with Health & Family Services Director Felicia Norwood who is on the record stating that the expansion of Meridian into the central Illinois region “will assure that our clients have access to managed care options in Central Illinois and the Quad Cities.”

Once Meridian is in operation in the region, we also recommend that the state implement an open enrollment period to allow persons on Medicaid the choice of health plans that will meet their healthcare needs.

We recommend that the state act.


Marvin Lindsey, CEO, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois

Behavioral Health Advocates Hail Illinois’ Selection for National Criminal Justice Reform Project

(Springfield, IL) –  Illinois’ selection as one of just three states out of 20 applicants for participation in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP) has drawn applause from a top Illinois behavioral advocate group.

Chosen by the National Criminal Justice Association Center for Justice Planning and the National Governors Association, the project offers technical assistance to states in the planning and implementation of data-driven, evidence-based practices in the areas of pretrial reform, re-entry and offender recidivism, mental health and substance abuse, reducing incarceration, and information sharing.

“Illinois has been a leader on criminal justice reform in the last several years, and the state’s participation in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project advances that effort,” said Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Since behavioral health care is a linchpin of any effort to fix our criminal justice system, we look forward, as key stakeholders, to be involved in the national reform effort.”

Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Executive Director John Maki, who announced Illinois’ selection on December 21, warmly welcomed the state’s participation.

“We are honored to be a part of the National Criminal Justice Reform Project,” said Maki. “This partnership will be invaluable as Illinois works to fully integrate evidence-based practices that ensure a fair and cost-effective criminal justice system and improve public safety.”

Through the project and with the assistance of an advisory board of national experts, the Governor Bruce Rauner’s office and ICJIA will lead teams of policymakers and key stakeholders on a strategic planning process for advancing reforms within the state’s executive branch.

“Protecting the public’s safety is of paramount importance to Governor Rauner,” said Rodger Heaton, Public Safety Director. “The state’s selection for this grant reflects the many efforts underway to improve our public safety system in sustainable, measurable ways.”

Lindsey said that he “looks forward” for CBHA’s opportunity to share “evidence-based best practices” CJIA to help push executive branch reforms.

“Our community behavioral health providers are working on ground every day implementing evidence-based best practices, and we look forward to working with CJIA and Director Maki wherever we may be helpful,” Lindsey said.

In 2015, the Rauner created the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, an initiative to reduce Illinois’ incarcerated population by 25 percent by 2025.

Lindsey also noted that in August 2015, before the November 2015 release of the infamous Laquan McDonald shooting video, Rauner signed the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act, Senate Bill 1304, sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), a measure that contains a requirement for police body cameras, training and attention for dealing with individuals suffering from mental health illness.

“The Illinois debate occurred before the MacDonald video became public,” Lindsey said. “I think Senator Raoul’s legislation puts Illinois ahead of a curve on the topic.”


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.


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.


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.

CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey Leads Health Home Talk at Behavioral Health Summit

CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey
CBHA CEO Marvin Lindsey

(Bloomington, IL) – At a fall behavioral health summit in Central Illinois, Community Behavioral Health Care Association CEO Marvin Lindsey spotlighted the leading role of health homes have played in Missouri’s efforts to advance integrated care.

During the October 6 Behavioral Health Economics Network (BHECON) summit in Bloomington, Illinois, Lindsey directed the panel discussion of the Missouri experience with health home integration, which featured “what worked, what didn’t” in the panelist presentation.

The October 6 summit was the second of three planned conferences. The third meeting, which will be again in Bloomington, will be scheduled after the November 8 elections.