Governor Pritzker signs legislation to increase mental health workforce in Illinois

CHICAGO, IL-(Radio Effingham)-Governor Pritzker today signed Senate Bill 3617, omnibus legislation aimed at addressing the shortage of mental health professionals in Illinois and increasing access to high-quality mental health services. throughout the state. The bill temporarily allows professional license holders who have not practiced for less than five years to reactivate their license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The bill also aims to expand behavioral health training, encourage the hiring of people recovering from substance use disorder or mental illness, and make it easier for advanced practice registered nurses to treat patients.

“We need a mental health workforce that is robust enough to help people when they need it, not after months on a waiting list,” Gov. JB Pritzker said. “I am proud to sign this omnibus mental health bill – training, expanding and diversifying our behavioral health workforce – into law. This bill invests in mental health infrastructure — and that infrastructure is people. Our therapists. Our social workers. Our crisis advisers. There is nothing more important than investing in the people who support the health and well-being of Illinois. »

The omnibus mental health legislation builds on the Pritzker administration’s commitment to improving access to critical behavioral health services throughout Illinois, demonstrated by efforts that include expanding gender parity. emergency-to-permanent telehealth, as well as the recent appointments of state behavioral health officer David Jones and children’s Dana Weiner, director of the Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative. The FY23 state budget, which takes effect July 1, 2022, includes a significant investment in mental health and addiction prevention and treatment services that aim to increase access to the behavioral health in all regions of the state.

The legislation removes barriers for those wishing to reinstate mental health staff, such as earning continuing education credits, passing additional exams and paying fees. The former license holder must be in good standing for their license to be reactivated. Mental health professionals who have not practiced for less than five years can only reinstate their license with the IDFPR once without providing further information to the Department.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused an increase in the need for mental and emotional support across the country, BIPOC and rural communities faced greater disparities in access to mental health care. Our administration has always been, and always will be, committed to addressing disparities and putting people first,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. “And this legislation does that. Illinois is not only increasing the mental and behavioral health workforce, but expanding the pathways for diverse, passionate, and skilled people to make a difference in their communities, especially those who have historically been hurt. underserved and underfunded.

In addition, the measure allows Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) to perform all required psychiatric visits to patients in the special mental health rehabilitation facilities, in addition to physicians.

The Recovery and Mental Health Tax Credit is also created under SB 3617, which creates a program to provide tax incentives to qualified employers who employ eligible individuals who are recovering from a mental health-related disorder. substance use or mental illness. IDHS will work with the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) to verify tax credit certificates issued to employers.

Additionally, the bill allows the Mental Health Division of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to award grants or contracts to enhance the training and supervision of behavioral health providers-in-training seeking to obtain a license in specific fields. IDHS will oversee the application process; grants are credited. Additionally, a 15-member advisory council will be created to advise DHS, examining the impacts of mental illness and substance use disorders on employment opportunities within minority communities.

“The past two years have put a strain on our health professions and underscored the incredible need for a strong mental health workforce to meet the increased demand,” said Rep. Deb Conroy (D- Elmhurst) and lead sponsor of the bill. “We want residents of all ages and backgrounds to get the care and support they deserve, and we can only do that if we have enough qualified professionals who can help them. This measure removes bureaucratic hurdles and will help bring trained professionals back to the field when we need them most. »

“It takes courage and strength to ask for help. Being told you have to wait weeks – or months – for care is extremely disheartening,” said Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) and lead sponsor of the bill. “We need to support people struggling with mental and behavioral health issues, as well as address the difficulties that our mental health providers face in trying to see as many patients as possible. This law will address both issues and ensure that Illinois will have better access to quality mental health care.

“Mental health is health. Full stop. What we have lived and learned over the past two years is that we need to build a mental health system that works for the people of our state,” said State Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago ). “This legislation and the investment Governor Pritzker made in the fiscal year 2023 budget for providers and services helps us make tremendous strides in addressing this amplified crisis.”

“Our state continues to face a mental health workforce shortage as demand for these services continues to grow,” said State Sen. Karina Villa (D-West Chicago). “With the signing of the Omnibus Mental Health Bill, Illinois is taking steps to ensure those seeking mental health resources can access professionals in the field. As a social worker, I understand how dire these services can be and I’m glad to see Illinois taking prompt action on this critical issue.

“Mental health needs can be just as urgent as physical health emergencies. This law will help ensure that we have capable and available professionals to help in the event of a mental health crisis,” Majority Caucus Chairman Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) said. “Suicide rates have increased over the past two decades, and having a strong mental health workforce can provide people with the resources they need and help save lives.”

“The shortage of behavioral health professionals has put residents living with mental health issues at risk,” said State Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood). “This new law will help address the shortage and ensure there are enough providers for people to get the help they need.”

“Mental illness is difficult for anyone to live with, but members of minority communities who struggle with mental illness face heightened stigma and unique challenges that call for unique solutions,” said State Rep. Lamont J. Robinson (D-Chicago). “Supporting mental health personnel, encouraging the employment of people in recovery and all the provisions of this new law are essential steps to ensure that anyone facing mental health problems has the resources and care they need. needs to live the happy and safe life she deserves. .”

“Adding a recovery and mental health tax credit to employers’ human resources arsenal will help reverse the loss of workers due to the pandemic and revive their ability to recruit new workers,” said Jud DeLoss, CEO of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health. “It will also help reduce the stigma of people in recovery by demonstrating that they are part of the community and should return to working alongside other Illinoisans, and I am proud that the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health has helped draft the legislation and get the bill passed. finishing line.”

“The legislation Governor Pritzker signed today will help alleviate Illinois’ behavioral health workforce crisis by expediting the process for out-of-state professionals to obtain their Illinois license and increasing the pipeline and diversity of the behavioral health workforce by implementing a funding mechanism that supports the training of new and existing trainees to become licensure,” said the CEO of the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association, Marvin Lindsey. “We are deeply grateful to Governor Pritzker for his leadership in growing Illinois’ behavioral health workforce.”

“We are thrilled with the continued focus on meeting Illinois mental health needs in every community,” said Heather O’Donnell, senior vice president of public policy and advocacy at Thresholds. “This legislation will significantly improve the behavioral health workforce crisis and access to care.”

Michael A. Bynum