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Expanding Access to Preventative Services and Early Treatment: An Overview of the 2019 Children’s Mental Health Crisis Act



This session aims to inform individuals and families with lived experience, service providers, advocates, and public officials about the 2019 Children’s Mental Health Crisis Act (HB2154), groundbreaking bi-partisan legislation strengthening family engagement, and expanding access to preventative services and early treatment. Participants will learn from leading advocates and policy experts about new services and programmatic updates associated with this initiative of Healthy Minds Healthy Lives – a diverse statewide advocacy coalition. Presentation also includes an introduction to state-level children’s mental health policy issues and an overview of key sources of coverage for children’s services including Medicaid, private insurance, and the Family Support Program (formerly the Individual Care Grant).

Presenter Bios

Heather O’Donnell – Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy at Thresholds

Thresholds is an Illinois-based community mental health provider that serves over 15,000 individuals living with significant mental health and substance use conditions.

Heather leads Thresholds’ legislative and public policy efforts, and also spearheads an advocacy coalition of over 100 mental health and substance use providers across Illinois. She has extensive experience in mental health and healthcare policy, as well as fiscal policy.

Prior to Thresholds, Heather served as Director of Planning for Healthcare Reform at CJE SeniorLife, where she successfully designed a federal healthcare reform demonstration program with numerous hospitals and nursing homes across Chicago. She served as the Policy Director for Health Care and Human Services at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability with a focus on public healthcare finance for over six years.

Prior to that, Heather worked for Lawyers for Human Rights in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Heather practiced corporate law for eight years before moving into the public interest sector.

Amber Kirchhoff – Manager of Public Policy at Thresholds

Ms. Kirchhoff has a decade of experience in public policy, which includes posts in state government and at research institutes and non-profit organizations.

Currently, she is the Manager of Public Policy at Thresholds, a nationally recognized community mental health treatment provider. In her role, she helps lead the agency’s advocacy agenda on the state and federal level by handling outreach to public officials, developing partnerships with external stakeholders, and acting as an in-house subject matter expert. She helped launch the statewide Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition and played a central role in the passage of the Children’s Mental Health Crisis Act and the Campus Early Action Mental Health Act as well as securing key provisions in the 2019 Medicaid omnibus bill.

Prior to joining the team at Thresholds, Ms. Kirchhoff served as a policy analyst in the administration of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. She holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as a Master’s of Political Science from the Civic Leadership Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

* 1-2 additional presenters who helped to develop the Children’s Mental Health Crisis Act (HB2154) if our proposal is accepted.

From Next Door To Across Illinois

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