Lawmakers Pass Bill Positioning Illinois as a Leader in Innovative Early Treatment for Mental Health and Substance Use

On strongly bi-partisan votes, the Illinois House and Senate have approved SB2951 – a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will make Illinois one of the first states in the country to create a treatment model specifically designed for youth and young adults experiencing their first symptoms of significant mental health conditions. SB2951 also allows for the delivery of clinical substance use treatment in community-based settings.

This legislation brings Illinois’ treatment system in line with a growing body of research that demonstrates the importance of treating the whole person with a comprehensive set of wrap-around services and meeting a person where they are by delivering treatment in the home or out in the community.

As Illinois works to combat the deadly opioid epidemic and a long-standing mental health crisis, the passage of this legislation represents a sea change. With limited coverage for early treatment, for far too long people struggling with mental health and substance use conditions have had few options for getting the care they need to live well and get back on track.

The right treatment at the right time can make a lifetime of difference.

Accessing a package of treatment services tailored to meet the needs of a person first experiencing a serious mental health condition or substance use condition can mean the difference between a longer, healthier life and a devastating and preventable spiral of repeat hospitalizations, homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and disability.

The treatment models included in the bill compliment the exciting new mental health and substance use pilot projects outlined in Illinois’ 1115 Medicaid Waiver, recently approved by the federal government. A proposal to strengthen access to First Episode Psychosis treatment, originally included in Illinois’ Waiver application but ultimately not approved, makes this legislation even more critical by filling these gaps in services.

SB2951 was introduced by Healthy Minds Healthy Lives (HMHL) and sponsored by Senator Melinda Bush (D – Grayslake) and Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D – Chicago) with support from legislative champion Senator Dale Righter (R – Mattoon). HMHL is a statewide advocacy coalition comprised of a diverse cross-section of stakeholders including people with lived experience, family support organizations, trade associations, policy experts, and treatment providers including Thresholds.

SB2951 now goes to the Governor for consideration.

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For more on the SB2951, please see the bill fact sheet.

For more on the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition, visit their webpage.