New law aims to boost Illinois mental and behavioral health workforce


A growing number of Illinoisans in need of mental and behavioral health help will now have more options, under a new law signed Friday by Governor JB Pritzker.

Senate Bill 3617 recognizes a hard truth in many Illinois communities: the need for mental and behavioral health care far outweighs the resources needed to meet it, according to a statement from State Rep. Mike Halpin , D-Rock Island. There are only 14 behavioral health professionals for every 10,000 people in Illinois, and many people have to wait longer for essential treatment or skip treatment altogether.

State Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, announcing his candidacy for the Illinois State Senate on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (Jonathan Turner,

Halpin joined his colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly in supporting this new law, which has been signed into law and will take effect immediately.

Measure expands mental and behavioral health workforce by making it easier for out-of-state clinicians to become licensed in Illinois and streamlining requirements for social workers, professional counselors and psychologists clinicians who recently have inactive licenses.

It also encourages greater diversity in the field of mental health, creates tax credits for care providers and makes other improvements to the law to encourage more accessible and quality mental and behavioral health care.

“Too many people are suffering in silence, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created so many challenges for people who just need help,” Halpin said in a statement Friday. “I am proud to support the investment in our mental and behavioral health system to provide high quality care in all regions of Illinois.”

The bill temporarily allows professional license holders who have not practiced for less than five years to reactivate their license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The bill also aims to expand behavioral health training, encourage the hiring of people recovering from substance use disorder or mental illness, and make it easier for advanced practice registered nurses to treat patients.

In this Feb. 22, 2021, file photo, Governor JB Pritzker speaks at Chicago State University in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, file)

“We need a mental health workforce that is robust enough to help people when they need it — not after months on a waiting list,” Gov. Pritzker said Friday. “I am proud to sign this omnibus mental health bill – training, expanding and diversifying our behavioral health workforce – into law. This bill invests in mental health infrastructure — and that infrastructure is people. Our therapists. Our social workers. Our crisis advisors.

“There is nothing more important than investing in the people who support the health and well-being of Illinois,” he said.

Improve access to services

The state aims to improve access to essential behavioral health services throughout Illinois, as evidenced by efforts that include expanding telehealth parity from ER to duty, as well as recent appointments state behavioral health officer David Jones and director of the Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative Dana Weiner.

The new state budget, which takes effect July 1, 2022, includes a significant investment in mental health and addiction prevention and treatment services that aim to increase access to the behavioral health system in all regions of the state.

The new legislation removes barriers for those wishing to re-enter mental health staff, such as earning continuing education credits, passing additional exams and paying fees. Former license holders must be in good standing to have their license reactivated. Mental health professionals who have not practiced for less than five years can only reinstate their license with the IDFPR once without providing further information to the Department.

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused an increase in the need for mental and emotional support across the country, BIPOC and rural communities faced greater disparities in access to mental health care,” Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said in the state statement.

“Our administration has always been, and always will be, committed to addressing disparities and putting people first. And that’s what this law does. Illinois is not only increasing the mental and behavioral health workforce, but expanding the pathways for diverse, passionate, and skilled people to make a difference in their communities — especially those who have historically been hurt. underserved and underfunded.

Additionally, the measure allows advanced practice registered nurses to perform all required psychiatric visits to patients in special mental health rehabilitation facilities, in addition to physicians.

New tax incentives

The Recovery and Mental Health Tax Credit is also created under SB 3617, which creates a program to provide tax incentives to qualified employers who employ eligible individuals who are recovering from a mental health-related disorder. substance use or mental illness. IDHS will work with the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) to verify tax credit certificates issued to employers.

The 2021 QC Health Assessment found that more than 42% of adults suffered from chronic depression (Credit: Getty Images)

Additionally, the bill allows the Mental Health Division of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to award grants or contracts to enhance the training and supervision of behavioral health providers-in-training seeking to obtain a license in specific fields.

IDHS will oversee the application process; grants are credited. Additionally, a 15-member advisory council will be created to advise DHS, examining the impacts of mental illness and substance use disorders on employment opportunities in minority communities.

“The past two years have put a strain on our health professions and underscored the incredible need for a strong mental health workforce to meet the increased demand,” said Rep. Deb Conroy (D- Elmhurst) and lead sponsor of the bill. “We want residents of all ages and backgrounds to get the care and help they deserve, and we can only do that if we have enough trained professionals who can help them. This measure removes bureaucratic hurdles and will help bring trained professionals back to the field when we need them most. »

Asking for help takes strength

“It takes courage and strength to ask for help. Being told you have to wait weeks – or months – for care is extremely discouraging,” said Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) and lead sponsor of the bill. “We need to support people struggling with mental and behavioral health issues, as well as address the difficulties that our mental health providers face in trying to see as many patients as possible. This law will address both issues and ensure that Illinois will have better access to quality mental health care.

“Mental health is health. Full stop. What we have lived and learned over the past two years is that we need to build a mental health system that works for the people of our state,” said State Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago ).. “This legislation and the investment Governor Pritzker made in the fiscal year 2023 budget for providers and services helps us make tremendous strides in addressing this amplified crisis.”


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