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%.


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