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.

sara@ilabh.org

 

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.

sara@ilabh.org

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, sara@ilabh.org

 

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%.

 

Feigenholtz Bill Targeting “Opioid Patient Brokers” Heads to Governor’s Desk

(Springfield, IL) – Bipartisan legislation that targets out-of-state “patient brokers,” which takes advantage of Illinois residents struggling with opioid addiction and other behavioral health crisis by marketing expensive, questionable ‘treatment’ services, is heading to Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk

The measure, House Bill 4949, has zipped through unanimously both the House and Senate.

The legislation seeks to prohibit marketers from falsely encouraging patients and families to seek treatment outside of Illinois, which would result in out-of-network expenses and travel costs.

“Scam artists marketing unscrupulous drug treatment providers have mushroomed since the opioid crisis exploded in Illinois, and they’re preying on desperate families seeking to help a loved one overcome their addiction,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe. “This legislation bans the tactics that are driving patient brokering, such as barring marketers and patient brokers from seeking kickbacks and referral fees in exchange for directing patients for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

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IL House OKs Bill Targeting “Patient Brokers” Exploiting Opioids Crisis

(Springfield, IL) – Bipartisan legislation that targets out-of-state “patient brokers” taking advantage of Illinois residents struggling with opioid addiction and other behavioral health crisis by marketing expensive, questionable ‘treatment’ services  has been approved by the full Illinois House.

The measure, House Bill 4949, zipped through the House 110-0 last week.

The legislation seeks to prohibit marketers from falsely encouraging patients and families to seek treatment outside of Illinois, which would result in out-of-network expenses and travel costs.

“Scam artists marketing unscrupulous drug treatment providers have mushroomed since the opioid crisis exploded in Illinois, and they’re preying on desperate families seeking to help a loved one overcome their addiction,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe. “This legislation bans the tactics that are driving patient brokering, such as barring marketers and patient brokers from seeking kickbacks and referral fees in exchange for directing patients for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) is sponsoring the bill.

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Bill Targeting “Patient Brokers” Exploiting Opioids Crisis Faces Illinois House Vote

IABH_HB4949_Committee

Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe (R) testifies at Illinois House Mental Health Committee hearing on “patient brokering” bill. State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) (L).

(Springfield, IL) – Bipartisan legislation that targets out-of-state “patient brokers” taking advantage of Illinois residents struggling with opioid addiction and other behavioral health crisis by marketing expensive, questionable ‘treatment’ services faces a looming vote by the full Illinois House.

The measure, House Bill 4949, in which the Illinois House Mental Health Committee voted 21-0 in favor on March 8, seeks to prohibit marketers from falsely encouraging patients and families to seek treatment outside of Illinois, which would result in out-of-network expenses and travel costs.

“Scam artists marketing unscrupulous drug treatment providers have mushroomed since the opioid crisis exploded in the United States and in Illinois, and they’re preying on desperate families seeking to help a loved one overcome their addiction,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe. “This legislation bans the tactics that are driving patient brokering, such as barring marketers and patient brokers from seeking kickbacks and referral fees in exchange for directing patients for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) is sponsoring the bill.

Howe, who testified before lawmakers in behalf of the bill, said the patient brokers specifically target families with private insurance and aim to run up out-of-network expenses. She cited a case to lawmakers of an Illinois woman, 26, who had travelled to Florida for drug treatment but ended dying from a drug overdose but not before her insurance company had paid more than $1.3 million to the treatment provider.

“In the case of the Illinois woman who died in Florida, the so-called treatment provider had, for example, been performing three drug tests per day, way over the industry standard, for the sole purpose of running up the bill,” said Howe. “These type of facilities, which are marketed as ‘beach front locations; are also advertising that an individual can continue using drugs while in treatment.”

In addition to prohibiting referral fees, Feigenholtz’s plan would require marketers located outside of Illinois to inform patients and families that free or low-cost treatment services may be available in Illinois and directs them to the Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse for more information. Importantly, the legislation would also require that marketers inform consumers whether the facility offers services that could be covered by an Illinois insurance or managed care plan and if they are in-network of those plans as well as note that free or low-cost treatment services may be available in Illinois.

“Patient brokers operate like predators, pushing unscrupulous drug treatment programs on families who are desperate to find treatment for opioid addiction and mental illness for their loved ones,” said Feigenholtz. “HB4949 will shut down these deceptive marketing practices and dry up ‘finder fees’ for brokers referring patients. Illinois must end this practice now.”

The full Illinois House is set to vote on the bill.

For more information, contact: Sara Howe, sara@ilabh.org.

IL Graded “C” on Mental Health Parity Law; Advocates Join National Compliance Push

(Springfield, IL) – Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of landmark federal legislation providing insurance parity for mental health and addiction treatment, but lagging enforcement in Illinois and elsewhere around the country has pushed state behavioral health advocates to join a national compliance campaign to “jumpstart” the law and nudged state lawmakers to launch a probe of parity gaps.

“On the U.S. Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, Illinois gets a “C” on enforcement,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Sara Moscato Howe, who will lead Illinois’ compliance effort. “Too often, insurance companies get away with denying care to individuals struggling with mental illness or addiction. That’s why we are joining a national effort to pursue full enforcement of the law.”

Illinois and four other states – Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio – form the vanguard of the Parity@10 Compliance Campaign, a three-year, 10-state push to ensure that the federal law lives up to its promise nationwide.

Spearheading the campaign nationally are the Legal Action Center, The Kennedy Forum, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, and the Research & Evaluation Group at Public Health Management Corporation.

“The campaign is ready to jumpstart parity enforcement,” said Ellen Weber, vice president for health initiatives at the Legal Action Center and the director of the campaign. “Achieving more robust parity compliance in 10 states over the next three years will not only benefit millions of people living in those states, but will also establish models that can be adopted by other states.”

Howe says that the campaign’s goal in Illinois is to ensure that insurance carriers and State Medicaid programs offer fully parity compliant substance use and mental health benefits and that regulators end complaint-driven enforcement models that put the onus on consumers.

“Generally, insurance plan documents fail to provide sufficient information for consumers to determine whether coverage complies with the law or not, which stifles complaints, and without consumers filing complaints regulators are unable to act,” said Howe. “The system is rigged in favor of insurance companies, not consumers. That’s why we need proactive enforcement that empowers regulators to police insurance companies before their plans are sold.”

Howe says that in Illinois, the campaign will work with lawmakers, regulators, and the Attorney General to develop more effective compliance and enforcement frameworks.

Howe noted that a September 2017 report by the Kennedy Forum, with whom Howe’s group collaborated, revealed that 75 percent of Illinois behavioral health providers surveyed reported that Medicaid Managed Care Organizations “sometimes/often/always” denied coverage for mental health and addiction inpatient and outpatient treatment, among other services, prompting State Rep. Steve Andersson (R-Geneva), member of the House Mental Health Committee, to file a resolution urging action to address the report findings.

Meanwhile, the House mental health panel will hold a hearing in Chicago on December 4 to launch its own investigation of mental health and addiction treatment service “barriers” experienced by community behavioral health providers.

IABH’s work with The Kennedy Forum on the report and on other parity initiatives lead the national Parity@10 Compliance Campaign organizers to select Illinois in the effort’s roll out.

“Illinois is one of five states selected to launch the campaign based on the work the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health (IABH) and The Kennedy Forum Illinois have been doing to advocate for comprehensive health insurance coverage of mental health and substance use disorders,” said the Legal Action Center’s Weber.

sara@ilabh.org

Top Behavior Health Advocate Group Praises Rauner Approval of Youth DUI Law

Eric_Foster_Hearing

Illinois Association for Behavioral Health Vice President for Substance Use Policy Eric Foster

(Springfield, IL) – A top Illinois behavioral health advocated lauded Governor Bruce Rauner’s approval on Tuesday of legislation requiring law enforcement to develop policies to care for intoxicated young people after a D.U.I. arrest, including attempts to contact a responsible adult.

“Providing new, standardized training for local law enforcement across the state on the appropriate police responses to youth arrested for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can potentially help avert individual and community tragedies,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health Vice President for Substance Use Policy Eric Foster. “We commend Governor Rauner for signing this measure to help to decrease harm to youth and others.”

The legislation is named after Conor Vesper, a 20-year old college student from Macoupin County who committed suicide hours after a drunk driving arrest. Vesper was the valedictorian of Staunton High School and an active campus leader at Blackburn College where he had earned a full ride scholarship.

“Following an arrest, it is critical that we protect impaired young people while they are still at risk for dangerous decision-making,” said Rauner. “Ensuring law enforcement has thoughtful policies related to the care of individuals under the influence that focus on reaching out to responsible adults will help prevent tragic situations and protect all Illinoisans.”

Conor’s Law requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to develop policies regarding the response and care for intoxicated young people after an arrest.

The bill’s chief sponsor, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), expressed his appreciation to Rauner and cited the bi-partisan effort to advance the legislation.

“I appreciate that Gov. Rauner saw the merit of this bipartisan legislation and chose to make it the law in Illinois,” said Manar. “Well over a year of work went into Conor’s Law and my only hope is that it prevents other families from experiencing the same heartbreak and anguish the Vespers experienced when they tragically lost their son, Conor. The Vesper family should be commended for their determination.”

Foster noted that IABH worked on the bill with Manar and praised the senator for his “thoughtful collaboration.”

“IABH worked with Senator Manar and his staff on the bill,” said Foster. “The senator’s thoughtful collaboration made it a good bill that we could support.”

Illinois Budget Crisis: SchuyIer County Mental Health Center in Danger of Closing by June 1

(Rushville, IL) – As the Illinois legislature struggles to craft a budget by its May 31 adjournment deadline, the Schuyler County Mental Health Center is adding itself to the list of behavioral health centers across the state that is in danger of closing within the next 10 days.

“We have been waiting for multiple payments from the State of Illinois for multiple months and have been unable to consistently meet payroll,” said Executive Director Trent Chockley. “And we’re not only waiting for payment for mental health and substance abuse treatment services, but we also have unpaid bills from the Illinois Department on Aging.”

The agency provides services to nearly 60 people, over the age of 60, every month and the state owes Schuyler a total of $64,000 for just the services provided under the Illinois Department on Aging’s Community Care Program.

“The State of Illinois continues to add deserving clients to their list that we need to serve, but has no willingness to pay the bills,” said Chockley. “We are dangerously close to shutting our doors for good without payment by June 1.”

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