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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Report: 60% of IL Behavioral Health Providers Say Budget Impasse Pushes Out Physicians, Clinical Staff over “Job Insecurities”

IABH CEO Sara Howe

(Springfield, IL) – Illinois’ behavioral health first responders are abandoning community providers across the state as the state budget impasse has unleashed a “tsunami” of “job insecurities,” according to new a survey.

The Illinois Association for Behavioral Health and the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities on Wednesday rolled out a statewide membership survey that reveals that 60.3% of Illinois behavioral health providers have “lost physicians or clinical staff due to job insecurities.”

“A tsunami of job insecurities is washing over behavioral health providers from Chicago to Cairo and is igniting a brain drain of vital behavioral health first responders for mental health crisis and drug overdoses,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe. “When we talk about ‘infrastructure’ collapse because of the Illinois budget impasse, this is what we mean. That is the loss of clinical staff, doctors, and psychiatrists who are no longer willing to endure the chaotic lack of funding.”

The state currently owes behavioral health providers $143 million for Fiscal Year 2017 for services already delivered, stretching back to July 1, 2016, or 90% of the amount budgeted for the current year.

“Worry over whether someone’s job will be around next month or next week is pushing talented clinical staff to find more secure employment,” said Howe. “Who can blame them?”

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OP-ED: Illinois Budget Impasse Impact: A Behavioral Healthcare Autopsy Report

OP-ED: Unlike the warnings two years ago directed at Illinois lawmakers about human services program closures and employee layoffs at the beginning of the Illinois budget impasse, now the warnings have ended.

They have been replaced by autopsy reports.

Since the budget stalemate began, more than 1 million Illinois residents have lost access to critical human services. 1 million.

More specifically, regarding behavioral healthcare, 80,000 people in Illinois have lost access to needed mental health services and more than 24,000 fewer residents have been admitted to addiction treatment services.

In the past, governors from the executive branch and lawmakers from previous General Assemblies had determined critical human services were best delivered at the local level by the private sector as Illinois moved away from expensive state-operated institutional models to community level care.  As those decisions were made, policy makers turned to our community providers and other human service provider organizations to carry out the policy of providing government services more effectively and efficiently. And the private sector delivered.

Yet, the executive branch and the legislative branch have walked away from community care providers who delivered their goals, evidenced by year-after-year of budget cuts and financial starvation of crucial behavioral health programs.

Currently, lawmakers and the governor are making impossible, no, absurd, demands: accept months or sometimes years-long wait for payments of services delivered. The wait has financially brutalized our agencies. We’ve exhausted our reserves. We’ve sapped our lines of credit.  We’ve drained our staff. Our employees, who are on the front line of providing care to those with substance abuse and mental health disorders, arrive at work each week wondering: is this the last day?

Have you the merest notion of how such uncertainty disables a workforce?

To heave insult on top of injury, providers and their staff often hear some lawmakers and policy makers in the executive branch refer to human services as a “drain” on the General Revenue Fund. A drain?

Well, let’s be clear: when your local human service agency lays of staff – staff who pay taxes, buy homes, cars, furniture, groceries, sodas, sandwiches, etc. from your districts’ local businesses – those businesses, local chambers of commerce, and lawmakers’ districts suffer.

As of last March 2016, more than 1,000 mental health and substance abuse clinicians alone had lost their jobs. That doesn’t include case workers or administrative staff. The number of job losses has only grown in the last 12 months as the impasse has grinded forward.

The budget crisis is both a human service crisis that strikes at vulnerable citizens of Illinois and it’s an economic crisis that undermines local business owners and lawmakers’ constituents and communities and local economies.

The budget standoff and its impact are ravaging communities across the state from those who receive care, their families, the agencies that provide the care, to the local businesses that earn their income from serving them.

Without the adoption of a FY 2018 budget, the autopsy report that community behavioral healthcare providers deliver next year will only be more gruesome.

Jessica Hayes, Vice President, Board of Directors, Illinois Association for Behavioral Healthcare

OP-ED: Trumpcare Plan Would Sink Illinois Mental Health Care, Addiction Treatment for 27,000

OP-ED: Obamacare, coupled with Medicaid expansion, has transformed access to behavioral health care for Illinois residents with mental illness and addiction disorders. Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act, almost 66,000 Illinois residents have accessed care that they otherwise would not have obtained.

Today, however, tens of thousands risk losing behavioral health care in Illinois. A survey by the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health of its members estimated that 26,490 Illinois citizens would lose behavioral health services if the Medicaid expansion component is rescinded under proposed Trumpcare. Financially, in fiscal year 2019, the president’s health plan would cut Illinois’ share of Medicaid funding by $1.4 billion.

Overall, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Trumpcare plan would cut coverage for 975,700 Medicaid beneficiaries; cause 301,600 Illinoisans to lose employer-sponsored health insurance; cut 62,000 from the Illinois insurance exchange; and cut coverage for 55,000 elderly residents, totaling more than 1.3 million Illinoisans who would lose health insurance under the federal legislation currently under consideration.

Moreover, roughly 2,038,000 individuals in Illinois, who have pre-existing health conditions, are at risk of having their coverage rescinded, being denied coverage, or being charged significantly more for coverage if the Congress approves the proposed American Health Care Act.

The loss of addiction treatment and mental health care services would cut not only care to 26,490, but also it would inflame the heroin and opioid epidemic that is convulsing the state.

In Illinois, heroin-related overdose deaths increased 22 percent from 2013 to 2014 and the opioid-related death rate rose 120 percent from 2014 from 2015. In 2016, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority researchers surveyed police chiefs and sheriffs for its Illinois Drug Threat Assessment and more than half of respondents identified heroin as the greatest drug threat in the state.

For example, in 2015, Will County registered 53 overdose deaths linked to heroin and fentanyl, which is more than the 51 deaths caused by traffic accidents. In Cook County, there were 526 heroin and fentanyl deaths in 2015 compared to 240 traffic deaths.

Critically, in the current opioid epidemic fight, Medicaid pays for 15.4% of addiction treatment medication in Illinois.

Additionally, Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature criminal justice reform goal to reduce the Illinois prison system by 25% would be jeopardized with the loss of federal money from the rollback of Medicaid expansion.

Without Medicaid expansion, Illinois will need to spend tens of millions of its general revenue fund dollars—an estimated $84.5 million—to pay for critical community-based behavioral healthcare services in support of the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform’s goal to reduce the state’s prison population 25% by 2025. That’s money that Illinois does not have.

The health legislation being considered currently by Congress would unleash a health care crisis, in general, and a behavioral health care crisis, in particular, in Illinois on a staggering financial and human scale if approved by federal lawmakers.

Illinois’ congressional delegation – which has a healthy interest in its constituents’ behavioral health well-being and their own – has a clear choice.

Drug Treatment Center Collapses; Exasperated Advocates Point Finger of “Moral Culpability” at Illinois Elected Officials

IABH CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) – The slated closure of a Central Illinois addiction treatment center because of Illinois’ budget crisis has pushed exasperated behavioral health advocates to demand that Illinois’ top elected leaders “do their job” or face “moral culpability” for “abetting heroin crisis.”

The Jacksonville-based Wells Center, which provides a 32-inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment program, announced on Friday that it will close in April and layoff all 33 employees.

Wells Center, which serves 500 clients annually, is owed approximately $1.4 million from the state, which provides 70 percent of its funding.

“The Wells Center closure is an another self-inflected wound in a long list of self-inflicted wounds committed by the state’s elected leaders,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “We ask our elected leaders to stop marching in parades; stop schmoozing at political fundraisers; stop working the rubber-chicken circuit and, instead, focus like a laser on a budget deal. Period. Nothing else matters.”

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Affordable Care Act Repeal Would Cost Illinois 114,000 Jobs

(Springfield, IL) – Pledges by President Donald Trump and U.S. congressional leaders to repeal the Affordable Care Act would deal an economic blow to Illinois, costing the state 114,000 jobs, says a new report.

A new report by Health Care for America Now shows the impact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would have on Illinois. It says more than a million people in the state would lose health coverage.

The fallout also includes $1.2 billion in new uncompensated care, 114,000 lost jobs, and $2.7 billion in lost income for hospitals and physicians. In Illinois, 260,000 people receive subsidies to help pay for their coverage, and the report says repeal would cost each of them over $4,300 in 2019.

Lynda DeLaforgue, the co-director of Citizen Action Illinois thinks without a good replacement plan, a repeal is irresponsible and dangerous.

“When people can get medical care at the front end, then we prevent a lot of catastrophic illness at the back end,” she said. “And so, the whole system is benefited through this, not to mention all of the lives that are saved when people have access to health care at the front end.”

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.

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Landmark U.S. Surgeon General Report Lends Medical Weight to Addiction Fight as Illinois Retreats from Battlefield

spr_capitol_v2(Springfield, IL) – While a new, groundbreaking Surgeon General’s report finds alcohol and drug misuse and severe substance use disorders, commonly called addiction, to be one of America’s most pressing public health fights, Illinois is in a full financial retreat from the addiction battlefield.

“It’s time to change how we view addiction,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on November 17, 2016. “Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”

Nearly 21 million Americans – more than the number of people who have all cancers combined – suffer from substance use disorders. Of those, approximately 845,201 are in Illinois.

The report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, marks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders.

By issuing the first-ever report on addiction, the Surgeon General has lent the weight of “medical opinion” to the classification of substance use disorders as a health care issue, according to a top Illinois behavioral healthcare advocacy group.

“The Office of Surgeon General has for the first time recognized that addiction is a chronic health care issue whose treatment must be addressed on an equal footing with other chronic health care issues, such as diabetes, hypertension, etc.,” said Illinois Association of Behavioral Health CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “Unfortunately, in Illinois, the state’s financial commitment to fight addiction has floundered.”

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IL Mental Health, Addiction Treatment Advocates Want “Quick, Responsible” Budget Resolution

(Springfield, IL) – Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Sara Moscato Howe today issued a statement calling on Governor Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders to act “quickly and responsibly” in order to produce a full Fiscal Year 2017 state budget.

“With the FY 2017 stop gap budget expiring at the end of December, the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health urges both the legislative leaders and the governor to approve quickly and responsibly a full-year state budget that reverses the budget cuts that have been imposed on mental health care and addiction prevention and treatment in recent years,” Howe said.

$1.3 Million from Feds Will Help IL Bolster Mental Health, Drug Treatment Parity

IABH CEO Sara Moscato Howe

IABH CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) – The Illinois Department of Insurance has received a $1.3 million federal grant to improve consumer and healthcare provider outreach, focusing on parity in mental health & substance use disorder benefits, and preventative health services.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to further our Administration’s coordinated efforts on mental health,” Acting Director of DOI Anne Melissa Dowling said. “These funds will help extend our outreach.”

Illinois Association Behavioral Healthcare CEO Sara Moscato Howe echoed Dowling comments.

“The grant does present an important outreach opportunity to help individuals struggling mental health or substance use disorders to get the care that they need, but otherwise may forgo by being unaware of insurance benefits to which they are entitled,” Howe said.

A portion of the grant will be directed to the Office of Consumer Health Insurance to improve data tracking and consumer complaint analysis. It will also help in increasing awareness of the internal and external appeals processes for health insurance consumers.  The grant will allow the state insurance department to develop community-focused health insurance consumer education for Illinois residents.

The state agency will also work with health plans, consumers and providers to ensure that mental health parity compliance is understood.

“I am committed to furthering this collaboration to achieve mental health parity in the commercial health care system by collaborating with my colleagues as well as with the provider community in Illinois,” said Dowling.