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Governor Pritzker Signs Legislation Increasing Mental Health Workforce in Illinois

Press Release - Friday, June 10, 2022

CHICAGO — Governor Pritzker today signed Senate Bill 3617, omnibus legislation aimed at addressing the shortage of mental health professionals in Illinois and increasing access to high-quality mental health services across the State. The bill temporarily allows professional licensees out of practice for less than five years to reactivate their license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The bill also seeks to expand behavioral health training, incentivizes the hiring of individuals in recovery from substance use disorder or mental illness, and makes it easier for advanced practice registered nurses to treat patients.

"We need a mental healthcare workforce that is robust enough to get people help when they need it—not after months on a waiting list," said Governor JB Pritzker. "I am proud to sign this mental health omnibus bill—training, expanding, and diversifying our behavioral health workforce—into law. This legislation invests in mental health infrastructure—and that infrastructure is people. Our therapists. Our social workers. Our crisis counselors. There is nothing more important than investing in the people who support the health and wellbeing of Illinoisans."

The Mental Health Omnibus legislation builds on the Pritzker administration's commitment to improving access to critical behavioral health services across Illinois, demonstrated by efforts that include expanding telehealth parity from emergency to permanent, as well as the recent appointments of state Behavioral Health Officer David Jones and Children's Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative Director Dana Weiner. The FY23 state budget, which takes effect July 1, 2022, includes a significant investment in mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services that aim to increase access to the behavioral health system in every region of the state.

The legislation removes barriers to those wishing to re-enter the mental health workforce, such as continuing education credit completion, passing additional examinations, and fee payments. Former license holder must be in good standing to have their licenses reactivated. Mental health professionals out of practice for less than five years may restore their license with IDFPR only once without providing more information to the Department.

"Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike in the need for mental and emotional support across the nation, BIPOC and rural communities faced greater disparities in accessing mental health care. Our administration has always been, and will always be, committed to fighting disparities and putting people first," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "And this legislation does that. Illinois is not only increasing the workforce in the mental and behavioral health field but expanding pathways for diverse, passionate, and qualified individuals to make a difference in their communities—especially ones that have historically been underserved and under-resourced."

In addition, the measure enables advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to conduct any required psychiatric visits to patients in Special Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities, in addition to physicians.

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 in recovery from a substance use disorder or mental illness. IDHS will work with the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) to verify tax credit certificates issued to employers.

Additionally, the bill allows the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Mental Health to award grants or contracts to enhance training and supervision of behavioral health providers-in-training seeking licensure in specified fields. IDHS will oversee the application process; grants are subject to appropriations. Additionally, a 15-member Advisory Council will be established to advise DHS, examining mental illness and substance use disorder impacts on employment opportunities within minority communities.

"The past couple of years have strained our health professions and underscored the incredible need for a strong mental health workforce to meet increased demand," said Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Elmhurst) and lead bill sponsor. "We want residents of all ages and of all backgrounds to receive the care and help they deserve, and we can only do that if we have enough qualified professionals able to assist. This measure removes bureaucratic hurdles and will help bring trained professionals back to the field right when we need them the most."

"It takes bravery and strength to reach out for help. Being told you have to wait weeks - or months - for care is extremely discouraging," said Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) and lead bill sponsor. "We need to support people struggling with mental and behavioral health issues, as well as address difficulties our mental health providers are facing trying to see as many patients as possible. This law will work to fix both issues and ensure that Illinoisans will have more access to quality mental health care."

"Mental health is health. Full stop. What we have lived and learned in these past past two years is that we must 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 FY2023 budget for providers and services help us make enormous strides in addressing this amplified crisis."

"Our state continues to face a workforce shortage within the mental health field, all while demand for these services continues to increase," said State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago). "With the signing of the Mental Health Omnibus Bill, Illinois is taking steps to ensure those who are seeking mental health resources are able to access professionals within the field. As a social worker, I understand just how dire these services can be and I am happy to see that Illinois is taking swift action on this critical issue."

"Mental health needs can be just as urgent as physical health emergencies. This law will help ensure that we have professionals that are capable and available to assist with mental health crises," said Majority Caucus Chair Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago). "Suicide rates have increased over the past couple decades, and having a strong mental health workforce can provide people with the resources they need and help save lives."

"The shortage of behavioral health care professionals has put residents living with mental health issues at risk," said State Senator Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood). "This new law will help address the shortage and ensure there are enough providers for people to get the help that they need."

"Mental illness is difficult for anyone to experience, but members of minority communities who struggle with mental illness face increased stigma and unique challenges that call for unique solutions," said State Rep. Lamont J. Robinson (D-Chicago). "Supporting the mental health workforce, encouraging the employment of people in recovery and all the provisions in this new law are critical steps to making sure everyone who faces mental health challenges has the resources and care they need to live the happy and safe lives they deserve."

"Adding a recovery and mental health tax credit to employers' human resources arsenal will help reverse the pandemic-driven loss of workers and to help rekindle their ability to recruit new workers," said Jud DeLoss, C.E.O. of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health. "It will also help reduce stigma for those in recovery by demonstrating that they are part of the community and should be back working alongside other Illinoisans, and I am proud that the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health helped write the legislation and get the bill over the finish line."

"The legislation signed by Governor Pritzker today will help ease Illinois' behavioral health workforce crisis by accelerating the process for out-of-state professionals to obtain their Illinois licensure and by increasing the pipeline and diversity of the behavioral health workforce by implementing a funding mechanism that supports new or existing licensure training of interns," said Community Behavioral Healthcare Association CEO Marvin Lindsey. "We are deeply grateful to Governor Pritzker for his leadership on growing Illinois' behavioral health workforce."

"We are thrilled by the continued focus on addressing the mental health needs of Illinoisans in every community," said Heather O'Donnell, Senior Vice President of Public Policy & Advocacy at Thresholds. "This legislation will substantially improve the behavioral health workforce crisis and access to care."

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