66,000 Illinois Citizens Got Mental Health, Drug Treatment Thanks to Obamacare Advocates Tell Durbin

spr_capitol_v2(Springfield, IL) ­– In a letter to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a top Illinois behavioral health advocacy group claims that Obamacare has provided 66,000 Illinois citizens treatment for mental illness and substance abuse that “they otherwise would not have obtained.”

The letter to Durbin, dated January 2, 2017 from the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Sara Howe, heralded the Affordable Care Act impact in Illinois.

“The ACA, coupled with Medicaid expansion, has made a tremendous positive difference in access to services for those with mental illness and substance use disorders,” Howe wrote. “Since the inception of the ACA, IABH members have provided almost 66,000 Illinois citizens services they otherwise would not have obtained.”

Howe warned Illinois’ senior senator that “thousands” risk losing behavioral health care in Illinois if the U.S. Congress repeals the federal health insurance plan.

“The loss of services under the auspices of the ACA would not only lead to thousands of clients losing services, it would exacerbate the all too common occurrence of those with mental illness and substance use disorders being incarcerated due to actions taken as a result of their lack of access to care,” Howe stated.

A survey of its members by the group estimated that 26,490 Illinois citizens would lose behavioral health services if the Medicaid expansion component of the ACA is rescinded.


Op-Ed: Proposed Rauner Budget Fails to Meet Mental Health, Addiction Health Care Needs

OP-ED: Illinois has a staggering behavioral healthcare challenge and it needs a budget to meet that challenge.

Recent data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration underscores the need for a strong, well-funded community-based system of addiction and mental health services in Illinois.

Between 2010 and 2014, the behavioral healthcare challenges, such as depression, suicide risk, drug and/or alcohol abuse, for Illinois men, women, and children have mounted.

  • About 105,000 adolescents’ ages 12-17 report having at least one major depressive episode, while only 38% received treatment for their depression.
  • 355,000 adults 18 and over report ‘serious thoughts of suicide’; while ~363,000 qualified for a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) diagnosis.
  • Of the 1.53 million Illinois adults having ‘any mental illness’ (AMI) in the previous year, more than 55% did not receive mental health treatment.
  • Similarly, only 11.7% of the estimated 267,000 individuals 12 and older dependent on or abusing illicit drugs received treatment for their substance use disorder.

While behavioral problems and needs are clear, funding for addiction and mental illness prevention and treatment has been continually reduced by the Illinois General Assembly. In the past five years, the legislature has slashed state funding for addiction prevention, cut addiction treatment by 40% and mental health treatment by nearly 25%.

Meanwhile, an epidemic of heroin and non-medical use of prescription drugs has exploded across the state, forcing Illinois’ jails and correctional centers to become ill-equipped triage centers for individuals with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has repeatedly stated that the Cook County Jail is now the ‘largest mental health institution in the country’, and a majority of the individuals under his care are also there as a result of untreated addiction.

Over the past several years, Illinois has witnessed an expansion of mental health and addiction parity, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and a shift from state General Revenue Funds and Medicaid funding to a system of Managed Care funding, all of which has been implemented by providers in the trenches. At the same time, providers have borne uncompensated, additional expenses associated with implementation of Electronic Health Records and electronic billing. These changes have occurred while the legislature has almost annually imposed funding reductions on community providers, refused to raise historically low reimbursement rates, and left unresolved a Fiscal Year 2016 budget impasse that threatens to undermine our system of community-based care at its core.

While the staggering challenges to Illinois behavioral healthcare community providers continue to bear down, the policy prescription in the form of Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed FY 2017 falls, let us say, short. In fact, the Governor’s budget proposal continues to move Illinois in the wrong direction, threatening to decimate the already-weakened safety net for Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.

At a time when the need to prioritize state dollars for the maximum return on investment, reductions to the community behavioral health system are short-sighted and ill-conceived.

Data from national studies have concluded that addiction and mental health treatment not only produces measurable, positive outcomes, but also yields substantial savings to states. A 2014 actuarial study by Milliman found that $26-$48 billion could be saved nationally through effective integration of medical and behavioral services.

Additionally, several studies underscore the positive impact of addiction and mental health services:

  • A 2004 randomized trial studying employer costs found that ‘consistently-employed patients in an enhanced depression management program had 8.2% greater productivity and 28.4% less absenteeism over two years than employees receiving ‘usual care’.
  • The reduction in absenteeism and increase in productivity had an estimated annual value of $2,601 per full-time equivalent employee.
  • The state of Washington compared disabled Medicaid enrollees receiving SU treatment with the untreated population, finding that average monthly medical costs were $414 higher for those not receiving treatment, and with the cost of the treatment added in, there was a net cost offset of $252 per month or $3,024 per year. For individuals with opiate-addiction, cost offsets rose to $899 per month for those who remain in methadone treatment for at least one year.
  • The same study also found that prior to their SUD treatment expansion initiative, healthcare costs for Medicaid disabled clients with SUD problems were rising at a rate of 11% per year. Under the SUD treatment expansion initiative, the growth in healthcare costs was slowed to just 2.8% per year.

The solution is clear.

The Illinois General Assembly and the Governor must prioritize funding for addiction and mental illness prevention, treatment, and recovery support. Lawmakers and the Governor need to end the funding reduction cycle. Now. Instead, Lawmakers and the Governor need to close the gap between those needing behavioral healthcare and those receiving it. Lawmakers and the Governor need to invest in behavioral healthcare.

The governor’s proposed FY 2017 budget fails to do that.

The budget needs a do over.

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association


Illinois Snags Chunk of $22.9 Million Federal Community Behavioral Health Grants

Memory loss, conceptual artwork

(Springfield, IL) – The federal government last Tuesday awarded $22.9 million to boost community-based mental and substance use disorder treatment in 24 states, including Illinois.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in conjunction with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced yesterday that the money in the form of planning grants will support states, including Illinois whose Department of Human Services is to receive $982,373, to begin a long-term process that would certify community behavioral health clinics as federally qualified operations.

“The planning grants will help states strengthen payment for behavioral health services for Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries, and will help individuals with mental and substance use disorders obtain the health care they need to maintain their health and well-being” said Vikki Wachino, deputy administrator of CMS, and director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services.


70,000 to Lose Drug Treatment, Mental Health Services by End of July

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe (seated, second right) testified before Illinois House on Wednesday.

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe (seated, second right) testified before Illinois House on Wednesday.

(Springfield, IL) – Behavioral healthcare advocates today warned that a Illinois government shutdown would end drug treatment and mental health care services for 70,000 by the end of July.

The head of Illinois’s top behavioral healthcare group today testified before Illinois House lawmakers and said that the lack of a fiscal year 2016 budget means that by end of July approximately 60,000 men, women, and children would lose their mental health care and 10,000 would lose access to drug treatments services.

“If there is no money flowing to non-profit providers to pay for services by the end of July, there will be service shutdowns for 70,000 and layoffs,” said IADDA C.E.O Sara Moscato Howe. “There is no mystery here. The only question is only when, not if.”

Howe said that years of state budget cuts have financially weakened community social service providers.

“Among our community providers, after seven years of budget cuts totaling 40%, some providers are better prepared financially than others to absorb the financial shock of 90 to 95% of their income being indefinitely suspended,” said Howe. “However, unless that income is restored within a reasonable time frame, even the financially strongest operation will eventually cease to operate.”


IADDA Warns at Hearing of Rauner Prevention, Treatment Budget Cuts

Eric Foster, IADDA's VP of Substance Abuse Services and Chief Operating Officer, testified at the senate hearing.

Eric Foster, IADDA’s VP of Substance Abuse Services and Chief Operating Officer, testified at the senate hearing.

(Chicago) – At a Monday hearing of the Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee, human service advocates weighed in on budget cuts proposed in Governor Bruce Rauner’s FY 2016 Budget.

Advocates explained to the bi-partisan group of lawmakers about the devastating impact of the proposed human service cuts. Dozens of clients and family members also attended the hearing and spoke out about the positive impact of services, underscoring the need to maintain the social safety net in Illinois communities.

Rauner is aiming to slice $27.6 million next year from the current $127 million budget of the Illinois Department of Human Service’s Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse for alcohol and drug treatment, a 22% cut. A cut of that magnitude would eliminate addiction healthcare treatment for 7,871 individuals next year out of the 47,000 currently receiving care this year or a 17% overall decrease.

Eric Foster, IADDA’s VP of Substance Abuse Services and Chief Operating Officer, testified at the hearing, noting the significant gap in those in Illinois currently needing critical behavioral health services and those actually receiving them.

Foster noted that funding for addiction prevention is eliminated in this budget at a time when binge drinking and marijuana use continues to escalate. He also stressed that cost savings for both addiction and mental health treatment are significant, and that cutting these programs will raise costs elsewhere in the budget.

A client of Rosecrance and Pillars agency, Catrice, a 17-year-old student at Argo High School, spoke of the impact of trauma on her young life and her desire to numb the pain through drugs and alcohol. She stressed that until she went into residential and outpatient treatment, she questioned her own desire whether to even continue living. Once in treatment, Rosecrance helped her create a path to recovery. Her story is like that of so many youth and adults whom drug treatment providers see daily in their agencies.

Haymarket Center’s Dr. Dan Lustig outlined the impact of the proposed $27 million budget cut on local treatment service providers. Dr. Lustig also emphasized the reduction in funding that has occurred since FY 2009.

Since 2009, the state has slashed $39.7 million from treatment, denying care to 8,941 individuals.

The Department of Human Services pushed back on advocate testimony and claimed that they believe that the Affordable Care Act will cover many of the proposed DASA and DMH reductions.

However, Committee chair State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) reminded DHS officials that not all services are covered by the ACA and providers are still working through managed care issues. Moreover, she urged DHS Secretary Greg Bassi to quickly learn more about the impact of the federal IMD exclusion on residential substance abuse treatment, noting that relying on federal funding to make up the cost of services is not a realistic solution.

Next up is the House Human Services Appropriations Committee on Thursday at the capitol in Springfield.


Rauner Budget Axes 7,871 from Drug Treatment

(Springfield, IL) – Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed FY 2016 budget cuts would eliminate substance treatment for 7,871 Illinois residents, dealing a blow to employment opportunities, say advocates.

Rauner is aiming to slice $27.6 million out of the $127 million budget of the Illinois Department of Human Service’s Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse for alcohol and drug treatment, a 22% cut.

A cut of that magnitude would eliminate addiction healthcare treatment for 7,871 individuals next year out of the 47,000 currently receiving care this year or a 17% overall decrease, according to Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association Vice President for Substance Abuse Policy Eric Foster, who noted that funding for addiction health care has been cut 24% since fiscal year 2009.

“Tossing 7,871 people out of treatment means tossing them out of any meaningful opportunity to get a job,” said Foster. “Any good, modern businessman, especially a small businessman, knows that healthy employees are productive employees. It’s economics 101.”

According to 2014 data from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, 35% of individuals entering outpatient treatment services are employed at admission, and, thanks to treatment, that number grows to 42.6% employed at discharge. For those who receive treatment at Halfway House Recovery Homes 13.3% are employed at admission and, as a result of treatment, a whopping 38.7% are employed at discharge.

“These numbers demonstrate the immediate impact on employability of individuals who have access to treatment,” said Foster. “These numbers also demonstrate the folly of cutting treatment if politicians are trying to help people get jobs.”

Since fiscal year 2009, the state has been hacking away at substance abuse treatment services, and Rauner’s proposed budget cut is “business as usual,” says Foster.

“Since 2009, the state has slashed $39.7 million from treatment, denying care to 8,941 individuals in order to solve annual, chronic budget problems,” said Foster. “The cutting of addiction health care by Governor Rauner is just Springfield business as usual. There’s no ‘shaking up Springfield. Simple-minded cutting is what Blagojevich and Quinn did each year.”

“Shaking up Springfield” would mean fully funding programs that help people reduce drug and alcohol use and that help them get back to work, not slashing funding, says Foster.

“A 2005 study by Bloomington-based Chestnut Health Systems of more than 800 Illinois adults reported that treatment produced a 58% decrease in drug and alcohol use and a 69% increase in employment engagement,” said Foster. “Cutting a program that delivers results and that helps low-income workers, minorities, and women is not “thinkin’ anew”, it’s just the same old Springfield playbook.”

In addition, Foster cited a 2006 study that revealed the substantive and dramatic effect that substance abuse treatment has on reducing Illinois crime and recidivism.

“A 2006 study of prisoners completing the Illinois Sheridan reentry prison treatment program revealed that 21% were less likely to be re-arrested for a new crime and 44% were less likely to return to prison,” said Foster. “The creation of the Sheridan program was a symbol of innovation, and the Rauner Administration needs to expand treatment for offenders if it is serious about reducing Illinois’ prisoner population.”


Advocates Welcome Quinn OK of Illinois Heroin Study, But Criticize Drug Treatment, Prevention Budget Cuts

Governor Pat Quinn signing legislation earlier this month.

Governor Pat Quinn signing legislation earlier this month.

(Springfield, IL) – Advocates today welcomed a new heroin research initiative approved by Gov. Pat Quinn, but criticized budget cuts to Illinois drug treatment and prevention under the governor’s watch.

Quinn on Tuesday signed legislation to fight heroin use in communities across Illinois through a new law that will expand the scope of a special task force created last year to study heroin use in Illinois and make recommendations to increase awareness and prevention.

“Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to strengthen drug prevention efforts and save lives,” according to the governor’s press statement.

The legislation, House Bill 4542, sponsored by State Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) and State Senator Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park), expands the age range to be studied by the Young Adult Heroin Use Task Force to students in grades six through 12.


Op-Ed: Boosting Prevention Funding Can Help Blunt Illinois Heroin Crisis

Eric Foster, COO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, testifying earlier this year before the House Human Services Appropriations Committee.

Eric Foster, COO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, testifying earlier this year before the House Human Services Appropriations Committee.

(Springfield, IL) – Op-Ed: Where does the Illinois heroin crisis stand today?

“While Chicago remains a hub for the heroin trade in the U.S., an increased availability of purer, cheaper heroin that can be effectively snorted has contributed to the expansion of what once was primarily an urban issue into a problem affecting users in a wide variety of areas and demographics, especially youth in suburban Cook Co. and the collar counties.”

That is an accurate depiction of the current Illinois Heroin epidemic.

Except for one thing.

This excerpt was written in the conclusion of a Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC, Inc.) Issues and Statistics report ‘Heroin in Illinois’ – in March 2007.

What has changed?

The problem has grown only worse.

Heroin use has been increasing at an alarming rate. From 2007 to 2011, overdose deaths attributed to heroin increased by 115% in Lake County, 100% in Will County, and by 50% in McHenry County.

And now a new Illinois House Task Force, chaired by Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and vice-chair State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), has drawn 37 lawmakers to tackle the Illinois heroin problem.

In fact, 35 of those legislators are sponsoring a House Resolution, 883, declaring a heroin “State of Emergency” in Illinois.

Nevertheless, over the last seven years in the midst of this escalating epidemic and that of non-medical use of prescription drugs by young adults, Governor Pat Quinn and the legislature has chosen to drastically cut funding for addiction prevention and treatment services.

Between 2008 and 2014 the State of Illinois has eliminated $52 million (44%) in funding for substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. Drug treatment services for those struggling with addiction to alcohol and drugs were cut by $45 million (41%).


While services, designed to prevent the abuse of alcohol and drugs – including Heroin­ – primary alcohol and drug prevention was slashed by $6.6 million (88%).


Today, Illinois commits no more than a pitiful $1,000,000 annually to prevention.

Meanwhile, the number of 10th and 12th graders who have ridden in a car with a teenager who had been drinking or using drugs in the past year is on the rise with 24% and 33%, respectively.

Every dollar spent on school-based addiction prevention efforts produces $18 in savings related to health, work loss, and other social costs. This is a net savings of $3,757 per youth served.

That’s why the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association and The Illinois Collaboration on Youth are calling on lawmakers and Governor Quinn to take necessary steps to repair the drug prevention system by restoring funding to its FY 2012 level of $2,663,000 from its miserly $1,000,000 in FY 2015.

It is important to remember that, notwithstanding the growing epidemic of heroin use and overdose, there are hundreds of thousands of Illinois citizens who struggle every day with alcohol and other drug addictions who also cannot gain access to treatment.

Without adequate funding for these lifesaving prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, there is no end in sight for this epidemic.

Without the state’s help, the corpses in County morgues will continue to pile up.

Eric Foster, COO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association


Our View: As Illinois Heroin Crisis Spreads, Illinois Senate Eliminates Drug Prevention

Our View: “Couldn’t this tragedy have been prevented?”

After the tragic drug-related death of every child those words are uttered.

There is a visceral faith in the power of prevention. Nevertheless, Illinois drug prevention funding falls as the first victim to Illinois budget cuts. And the Illinois Senate took the first step this week to follow Governor Pat Quinn’s lead to eliminate Illinois drug prevention.

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) proposed a budget for next year to eliminate drug prevention services for more than 34,593 Illinois youth.

“This budget will break the back of Illinois’ drug prevention system – which has proven outcomes in reducing youth drug abuse – at the same time a heroin and synthetic drug epidemic is sweeping Illinois,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

Steans’ budget eliminates $2.6 million or 100% from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Family and Community Services for drug prevention, a cut that will cause 34,593 youth from receiving drug prevention services.

In fiscal year 2008 Illinois spent $7.5 million in state money on youth prevention.

“The days of heroin use being confined to the wrong people in the wrong towns are gone. It is a plague of all communities, all incomes and all children,” said Wayne Hunter, Lake County sheriff chief of administration, Daily Herald, January 31, 2012.

In Lake County, heroin deaths increased 130% from 2000 to 2009. In McHenry, in three years heroin deaths zoomed 150% higher. In Will County, in two years, deaths doubled.

And an escalation of heroin deaths has also struck Winnebago County.

“In the last several years I have seen an increase in the heroin use in the Rockford area.  I don’t think it is just the Rockford area I think it is across the whole country,” says Lt. Marc Welsh, Rockford Police Department.

For the first three months of 2012, 23 drug-related deaths have been caused either by heroin or cocaine or a combination of the two, according to the Winnebago County Coroner.

“If you follow through with the statistics we’ve had anywhere from the 50s to the 60s to the 70s as far as deaths for the entire year.  If you follow this through we are going to have well over 100 this year. And this is only January, February and March,” says Sue Fidducia, coroner.

“He was a good kid.  You couldn’t ask for a nicer kid. But the drugs tore him to pieces, made him a monster,” says Dave Reine of Rockford, last week remembering his son, Daniel, who became addicted in his early 20’s died of an overdose at 32.

In addition to heroin, synthetic drug use, like “K2”, “Spice” and “Bath Salts”, is an escalating problem among youth, said Howe.

“Illinois had one of the highest call rates to the Poison Control Centers for these synthetic drugs in 2010 and 2011,” said Howe.

“Year after year after year Illinois has tried to completely eliminate successful drug prevention programs to save a little money up front, but  such a move just ignites youth addictions, while a heroin and synthetic drug epidemic is sweeping the Chicago suburbs and down state Illinois,” said Howe.

Currently, untreated addiction costs the State of Illinois more than $3 billion a year. Meanwhile, drug prevention saves up to $35 for each dollar spent

“With heroin use by Illinois teens spreading like wild fire in the suburbs and downstate, nothing could be more foolish than cutting youth drug prevention in the middle of a crisis.” said Howe. “And Illinois will lose $2.6 million from federal matching money, even more foolish.”

Advocates Hail Quinn Signature on Meth Disruption Law, But Warn against Budget Cuts to Drug Prevention, Treatment Funding

Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Associaiton CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) ­– January 20, 2012. Illinois’ leading drug prevention and treatment advocacy group today welcomed Governor Pat Quinn’s signature on legislation that helps to disrupt Illinois meth production, but also warned the governor that the state’s efforts to combat drug abuse will falter if the already shrunken funding for prevention and treatment is reduced further in next year’s Illinois budget.

The new law signed by Quinn makes permanent a pilot program initially created to electronically track pseudoephedrine purchases that could be used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

“This program is a valuable tool that helps us prevent meth from getting into our communities by stopping production,” said Quinn. “Tracking the sales of items commonly used to manufacture meth has enabled us to nip production in the bud, and it is important to continue this program.”

The Methamphetamine Precursor Tracking Act took effect in 2009 and required pharmacies to track and block excessive purchases of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Since its implementation, the program has blocked more than 103,319 boxes – or 230,330 grams – of pseudoephedrine from being used for methamphetamine production in communities throughout Illinois, according to Quinn.

“Because this is an important tool to disrupt meth production, we welcome Governor Quinn’s signature on this law,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

“However, the principal line of defense against drug abuse in Illinois is drug prevention and treatment, for which state funding has been cut 30% since 2007,” said Howe. “To protect communities, we need Governor Quinn to shield the Illinois prevention and treatment budget from further cuts next year.”

Illinois’ non-Medicaid funding for prevention and treatment has fallen from $118 million in 2007 to $83 million this year, reducing the number of Illinois residents in treatment from 84,167 to 45,149, according to the most recent data.

“Unfortunately, meth production is starting to increase again across the state,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

“Attorney General Madigan’s warning about rising meth production underscores the consequence of Illinois’ prevention and treatment budget cuts,” said Howe. “That’s why we need Governor Quinn to preserve Illinois addiction prevention and treatment funds.”

Quinn is scheduled to unveil his fiscal year 2013 Illinois budget proposal on February 22.