New Law Opens Door to Immediate Treatment in Opioids Fight

(Springfield, IL) – A key component in addressing the Illinois opioid crisis advanced this week as Governor Bruce Rauner approved a plan to help people struggling with addiction get immediate access to outpatient treatment.

Rauner signed legislation on August 22, Senate Bill 682, which was championed by the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, that removes an administrative barrier  to treat substance abuse addiction.

“Obtaining treatment is often a matter of life and death for people fighting addiction,” Rauner said. “SB 682 helps give them the tools to win that fight.”

Currently, individuals experiencing an opioid overdose or reaction must wait for their treatment to be approved by their insurance plan before entering a facility. The legislation removes prior authorization barriers so people do not have to wait for treatment.

“This year Illinois tackled the issue of substance use, working closely with providers to remove barriers to admission,” said State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), chief sponsor of the legislation in the House. “The moment a person decides they are ready to enter a recovery program is a crucial one — and that person should never be turned away. SB 682 removes the prior authorization requirement to eliminate barriers to recovery treatment.”

The new law “will save lives” says top state behavioral health advocate.

“Both rural and urban Illinois families have lost loved ones to drug overdoses that, in many cases, could have been prevented with immediate access to addiction treatment,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “By eliminating insurance pre-authorization red tape for critical care, Gov. Rauner deserves praise for now ensuring swift access to vital addiction services that will save lives.”

In the event the insurance company denies treatment, SB 682 requires the insurance plan to cover outpatient treatment for 72 hours while the patient challenges the denial.

“It gives those in need the option for immediate coverage while they determine future coverage,” said the Department of Insurance’s Hammer. “It provides the support these people need at the right place at the right time.”

The law takes effect on January 1, 2019.


Illinois Behavioral Health Parity Protections Boosted Under New Law

(Springfield, IL) – Illinois’ existing behavioral health parity law last week won added enforcement power and enhanced access to addiction treatment under a bill approved by Governor Bruce Rauner.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1707, spearheaded by the Kennedy Forum Illinois, the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health and members of the Illinois Parity Implementation Coalition, and which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, was signed by Rauner on August 22.

The new law improves the scope and coverage of Illinois’ parity laws and provides clear enforcement power to the Department of Insurance. The legislation also prohibits prior authorization and step-therapy requirements for FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders and requires generic medications be on the lowest-tier of prescription formularies.

“This law is putting the ability to treat people and get them well back in the hands of providers,” Rauner said. “It lets providers do their jobs saving lives.”

The legislation also prohibits exclusions of the prescription coverage and related support services for substance use disorders.

“To combat the opioid crisis, people need immediate access to medications for medically assisted treatment,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O Sara Moscato Howe. “By prohibiting prior authorization and other administrative barriers, individuals will get the right care and get the care when they need it.”

This legislation also aims to improve transparency by requiring insurance companies to make parity compliance information available via a public website, according to the bill’s chief sponsor.

“Complying with state and federal mental health parity laws only happens when insurers are held accountable,” said State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie). “Transparency holds insurers to account and helps prevent coverage discrimination while enhanced enforcement power for the Department of Insurance can be invoked against insurance companies that violate parity law.”

Additionally, the legislation clarifies that medication-assisted treatment medical necessity determinations must comply with the American Society of Addiction medicine guidelines.

“This state, like many others, has a serious problem with the overuse of prescription painkillers and runaway opioid addictions,” said Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, who co-sponsored the bill. “Simplifying this process will most certainly improve patients’ quality of life and it will hopefully lead to less opioid overdoses.”

The law takes effect on January 1 2019.

Illinois Suicide Prevention Advocates Sound Alarm on Crisis Calls Surge, Funding Shortage

(Springfield, IL) – A top Illinois behavioral health advocate group is sounding the alarm on inadequate state and federal funding for crisis call centers as pleas for help to the national suicide help line surge.

“Both suicide hot line calls and suicide itself in Illinois and U.S. are approaching crisis levels,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe. “But inadequate funding is eroding the network of crisis centers across the country as suicide has increased in 49 out 50 states in the last two decades.

Howe noted that during the next four years, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) expects 12 million calls, equal to the calls it previously received over 12-years between 2005 and 2017.

There are currently 150 local crisis centers across the country that answer calls from the Lifeline, but from 2008-2012, nine centers dropped out of the network and from 2013-2017, 23 centers dropped out. In 2018, three centers closed.

In Illinois, there are currently seven crisis call centers. In the last six months of 2017, those seven centers could answer only 27% of the 32,675 calls from Illinois residents that poured in. The rest of the Illinois calls had to had bounce elsewhere around the country in search of an available crisis counselor.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Human Services, which funds crisis services through grants to community-based providers, has seen their crisis care prevention budget cut by $400,000. In Fiscal Year 2015 there were 85 awards to community-based providers totaling $13.2 million. And in Fiscal Year 2019 there are 76 awards totaling $12.8 million.

“The crisis call center network funding needs to be growing, not shrinking, as the call volume escalates,” said Howe. “Desperate pleas for help can’t bounce around from one overwhelmed crisis center to another throughout the country if we’re serious about preventing suicide.”

In June, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that in every state except Nevada, rates of suicide increased between 1999 and 2016. Illinois saw an increase of 22.8 percent.

Between 2006 and 2015 in Illinois, 12,121 succumbed to suicide, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The department also reports that for young adults, 15 to 34, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in Illinois.

The highest rate of suicide in Illinois per 10,000 residents between 2006-2015 was in Central Illinois’ Mason County with a 24.6 rate. Cook, Kane, and De Witt Counties tied with the lowest rate at 7.8. The City of Chicago had a 6.8 rate.

Howe says state funding for Illinois’ seven centers must increase by 10% or $1.2 million over the current budget of $12.8 million.

“We are losing youth and young adults to suicide at an alarming rate, while the state has eroded funding for suicide prevention, putting even more young people at risk,” said Howe. “State governments need to step up their crisis care funding by at least 10% or $1.2 million, and suicide prevention should a top priority of Illinois’ next governor.”

Sara Howe,


Poll: Illinois Voters Back More Money for Mental Health, Addiction Treatment

(Springfield, IL) – With the November 6 election less than four months away, a new poll reveals that majorities of Illinois voters back increased state funding for both mental health and addiction treatment services.

A July 12 survey of 423 likely voters conducted by Illinois Public Opinion, Inc. found that a whopping 68.5% want the State of Illinois “investment more money in mental health care” while only 8.7% “invest less.” And 22.6% were undecided.

“Clearly, Illinois voters overwhelmingly support increasing funding for mental health services,” said Sara Howe, C.E.O. of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health. “Mental health care has increasingly won vocal, bi-partisan support among state and federal lawmakers as they scramble to respond to tragic and more frequent mass shootings across the country, with mental health care being one of multiple prevention strategies, and public opinion is responding.”

Howe, notes that state funding for mental health funding has been, however, on a long, steady decline with an exception of a minor bump in the current state budget.

In Fiscal Year 2008, the legislature appropriated $368 million from the state’s general revenue fund to community mental health agencies. By Fiscal Year 2018, that amount had fallen by more than half to $170 million. In the Fiscal Year 2019 spending plan, community mental health providers, however, saw a 3% rate increase.

“The bottom line is that Illinois’ mental health budget has wilted despite public opinion,” said Howe. “The message from voters is loud and clear: more money for mental health care is a priority.”

The poll also showed that most voters, 52.4%, also support “investing more money” for treatment to help people struggling with drug addiction while 19.9% said “invest less” and 27.6% were undecided.

“The stigma of drug addiction has long weighed on public support for treatment services even though addiction is a neurological brain disease,” said Howe, explaining the gap in support in comparison to mental health. “That said, now having more than 50% of voters supporting greater financial in addiction treatment services is a sea-change in public opinion, and I’m convinced that the heroin epidemic and broader opioid crisis has driven that change because virtually no community has been untouched.”

The state general revenue funding pattern for addiction treatment services has also followed that of mental health care, dropping from $165 million in 2008 to $78 million in 2018.

“What is clear from the polling data is that voters by wide margins want the state to invest more money in behavioral health care,” said Howe. “Conditions in communities across the state, like the opioid crisis and mass shootings, are propelling public opinion forward.”

The automated survey contacted voters by both landline and cell phones and the margin of error was +/- 5.0%.