Thresholds Named Best & Brightest Company to Work For in 2017
Chicago, IL – Thresholds has once again been named one of Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in 2017 by the National Association for Business Resources. This award is bestowed to companies that distinguish themselves as having the most innovative and thoughtful human resources approach. An independent research firm evaluates each company’s entry based on key measures including compensation, benefits, engagement, retention, employee achievement recognition, communication and shared vision, diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and community initiatives.
Thresholds has over 1,400 employees working at more than 30 programs throughout the city of Chicago, adjacent suburbs, and nine Illinois counties, in more than 100 total locations. Thresholds promotes a diverse and supportive culture that empowers employees and rewards their accomplishments.
“Thresholds is successful because of our amazing workforce. Our staff have challenging jobs, and they do them with the most amazing heart and drive. I’m inspired by their dedication every day, and I’m thrilled that through this award, the work they do to make Thresholds great is being recognized,” says Mark Ishaug, Thresholds CEO.
“Companies that recognize that their employees are the key to their success achieve staying power. Our 2017 winners create their human resource standards to ensure employee satisfaction and they set standards for every business to aspire toward,” said Jennifer Kluge, President and CEO of MBPA. “We are proud to honor this year’s winners.”
Thresholds congratulates all recipients of this award, especially fellow nonprofit organizations who also share a strong commitment to serving the community. On Monday, July 17, 2017, Thresholds will be honored alongside fellow award winners at a luncheon at the Chicago Marriott Southwest in Burr Ridge, Illinois.
For current, open employment opportunities at Thresholds, please visit our career page.
Thresholds Statement on President’s Proposed FY18 Budget- Drastic, Inhumane Cuts to Medicaid and Social Safety Net
Chicago, IL – Yesterday, President Trump introduced his FY18 budget plan, taking aim at healthcare and safety net programs that provide a line of support for our country’s most vulnerable. The proposed budget would slash more than $600 billion from Medicaid over 10 years, make destructive cuts to disability programs and federal food assistance, and pave the way for onerous work requirements.
Such devastating Medicaid cuts would result in millions of people across the country losing access to mental health and substance use treatment and healthcare for other medical needs. As Illinois begins to address the opioid epidemic and its long-standing mental health crisis, the President’s budget would hamstring the state’s ability to combat these very real and serious problems.
The President’s plan also calls for harmful cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, often the only income sources for individuals living with a serious mental health condition, and allows states to impose work requirements for accessing Medicaid and wrap-around supports, an unnecessary barrier, particularly for those who are unable to work due to their illness. Imposing work requirements only compounds the challenges individuals living with mental illnesses currently face – a population which experiences unemployment at more than three times the rate of the average American, often because of their illness.
If enacted by Congress, the President’s budget plan will dismantle our nation’s healthcare and safety-net system, pulling the rug out from under millions of Americans. Those living with mental health and substance use conditions will be especially hard hit by the proposed budget.
Simply put – Illinois cannot afford these cuts; and neither can the hundreds of thousands of its residents living with mental health and substance use disorders.
It is often said that a budget is a moral document. This proposal does not reflect a commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic or the mental health crisis. It is rooted in neither compassion nor common sense.
We strongly oppose this proposal and we ask fellow advocates and those representing us in Congress to stand with us. We urge our elected officials to make good on their pledges to stand up for the people living with mental health and substance use disorders by rejecting the President’s introduced FY18 budget and ensuring the funding necessary for treatment and supports that provide a path to wellness and recovery.
Press Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172
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By Lydia Zopf, Program Director of the Thresholds Veterans Project
6:00 AM – I’m up bright and early. I get myself ready and throw the essentials in my work backpack – tablet, snacks, water, pencil pouch, cell phone, and 3 small gifts to raffle off for staff appreciation.
7:15 AM – I’m at the Thresholds program site, and we’re getting ready for the day: hot coffee is in the kitchen, the multipurpose room is set up for an iRest meditation group, we have fresh pens and welcome signs for new staff, I complete an inventory of our naloxone (a medication to interrupt a drug overdose) supplies, the “Boss Board” is updated with information and announcements for clients, and Motown music can be heard in the background.
8:30 AM – There are two veteran clients waiting in the lobby, eager for their 9:00 AM appointments. One client is currently homeless, and he’s here today to get ready to meet with his new landlord and sign a lease to his very own apartment. The other client is wearing dress pants and a tie, nervously fidgeting as he prepares himself for a job fair.
10:00 AM – I check my email: I approve the proposed schedule of retreats at Chicago Botanic Garden, send a STAR award (given to Thresholds staff members who went above and beyond) to the Recognition Committee, review a draft of a grant proposal, ask another program director for ideas about where a veteran client can board a pet while he is out of town for a few weeks, send out a calendar appointment for Clinical Supervision at the end of the month, remind my LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor) group to review an article before our next meeting, and confirm the day/time that YAP (Thresholds Young Adult Program) clients will come to our site and serve a meal to the veterans.
11:15 AM – The team leader and I hit the road. We stop by a client’s apartment to help him pay his rent and show him how to call the pharmacy to refill a prescription. The client is upset about a fight that took place down the block last night, so we spend some time helping him create a plan to stay safe and set up a time to visit him later in the week. Then we stop by a Puerto Rican restaurant to pick up sandwiches for lunch. Finally, we arrive at a school and walk into a 4th grade classroom, where 25 nine-year-olds have a long list of questions for us – What was it like to be separated from your family while you were deployed overseas? What was it like coming back home? What does a community support specialist do? How do you teach veterans about meditation? The Veteran Team Leader and I do our best responding to their questions, but we soon realize that these 4th graders already hold the key to the universe. I jump in an Uber to get back to the office while the team leader goes off to another visit with a veteran.
2:45 PM – Back at the office, I send out an email to my staff to announce the winners of three gadgets I raffled off (a selfie stick, a stylus pen, and a tablet cover). Staff also share suggestions for self-care in a long “Reply All” email chain. I clean up one of the group rooms and put art supplies away. I send a quick text message to confirm dinner plans (tacos, again). I help a new staff person finalize a care plan for a client and explain what a natural support is. I sign three more care plans and an annual MHA (Mental Health Assessment). I return a few phone calls and confirm my meetings for tomorrow.
4:30 PM – I’m getting ready to leave for the day, and a client shows up unexpectedly. He lost a file folder that contained personal documents and copies of applications for various public aid services. He has an appointment with CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) in the morning and doesn’t feel prepared. I invite him in and set him up in the computer lab, where he checks his email and Facebook. I look through his records and find the information he needs, make copies, and hand him a new file folder with everything for his appointment tomorrow. I can tell he is relieved because his shoulders are relaxed and his breathing has slowed a bit. I help him plan ahead for the morning: he sets an alarm on his phone and double-checks the CTA route. After he leaves, I document everything in Smartcare (Thresholds’ electronic record keeping software) and send a text message to the CSS (Community Support Specialist).
5:00 PM – I’m finally ending the day. In my car, I roll down the windows and put on the latest episode of The Moth. I take a deep breath and remind myself how grateful I am to have a home, good health, and a great deal of hope.
Lydia Zopf is the Program Director of the Thresholds Veterans Project. The Veterans Project includes homeless outreach, housing services, supported employment, peer-driven supports, substance use treatment, integrated physical and mental health services, and trauma-based therapies. Learn more about the Thresholds Veterans Project here.
The Power of a Job: Thresholds Supported Employment
Jobs transform lives. They provide purpose, routine, and financial freedom – all of which play a key role in recovery from mental illnesses. As Area Director for Little Caesars Pizza, Quizhpe Luz is one of the many employers who partner with Thresholds to provide competitive career opportunities to our clients through our supported employment services. “I believe in giving people a chance,” Quizhpe said, “that’s why I decided to work with Thresholds.”
In 2011, Quizhpe was introduced to Zekkina, a member of Thresholds Deaf Program who was working with supported employment to find a job, and invited her to join the Little Caesars team. Hiring Zekkina proved to benefit them both, filling an open position with an excellent employee and giving Zekkina a feeling of connection and empowerment. Reflecting on her life before employment, Zekkina shared “I was bored and had bad mood swings at home. Now I enjoy working, keeping busy – and no more mood swings.”
Quizhpe emphasized the importance of equality on her team in both respect and responsibility. “The team doesn’t treat Zekkina any differently,” she said, “they hold her accountable just like everybody else.” While Little Caesars training already incorporated multiple learning and communication styles, Quizhpe says working with Zekkina inspired her to seek out American Sign Language worksheets to better communicate with her.
Zekkina’s strong work ethic and positive contributions to Little Caesars have motivated Quizhpe to hire several more Thresholds clients and provide them with the same chance to succeed. “It feels wonderful to give someone a job. You’re making a difference in someone’s life, seeing their smiles as they start their career is payback for anything.”
Thresholds supported employment services provide clients with opportunities to build skills, prepare for interviews, match clients with employers based on their unique interests, and provide ongoing support both before and after the hiring process. To learn more about Thresholds supported employment services, visit thresholds.org/employment.
Advocacy: Raising Our Voices to Move Mental Health Forward
By Amber Kirchhoff
On May 1, Thresholds kicked off Mental Health Awareness Month by convening people with lived experience, health care and human service providers, and policymakers from across the state for our annual Mental Health Policy Forum. The Policy Forum served not only as an opportunity to learn from national experts and experienced state leaders, but as a chance to reimagine ourselves as advocates for the reforms and investment needed to transform the mental health system.
During the Policy Forum, several members of Illinois’ mental health community spoke of commonly faced challenges to accessing the care and supports needed to manage mental health conditions. Because of stigma and a general lack of information about mental illnesses, often many years go by before receiving a diagnosis. Even with an awareness of a mental health condition, accessing treatment and housing can be extremely difficult because of the underfunded, overly complex system of care that is currently in place. As a result, far too many spiral into disability, begin to self-medicate, cycle in and out of the hospital, or find themselves entangled with the justice system.
These tragedies are avoidable and Illinois can and must do better. We as advocates play an important role in bringing about needed changes and ensuring that no one is allowed to continue to fall between the cracks. Like most other health conditions, mental illness is treatable. In order to build a system that works, we must strengthen early identification and treatment, build service capacity so everyone who needs care gets it, ensure affordable housing as a foundation for treatment, grow the mental health workforce, and improve insurance coverage for proven treatments. Together this package of policy solutions represent the bedrock of our Road Map to Mental Health Reform.
Mental Health Awareness Month provides an important opportunity to challenge stigma and to start conversations about the critical need for treatment that works. At Thresholds, we work to advance those conversations and inspire mental health advocates all year round. As a community, we know what works; and together change is possible.
Amber Kirchhoff is an experienced public policy professional who has worked both in state government and with non-profit organizations. Currently, she holds the role of Policy Associate at Thresholds, supporting the agency’s government relations and advocacy efforts. Prior to joining Thresholds, Amber served as a Policy Analyst under the administration for former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. She previously earned a Master’s of Political Science through the Civic Leadership Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
We are deeply disappointed that in spite of the hard work of our advocates, and the urging of millions across the country, the U.S. House voted today to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), putting the health coverage of 24 million Americans in jeopardy. Millions will lose access to affordable healthcare if this bill makes it to the President’s desk. The House vote on the AHCA is a vote to slash Medicaid – the primary payer of mental health and substance use treatment – by $880 billion, weaken protections for pre-existing conditions, and undercut the Essential Health Benefits requirement, which guarantees that benefits like mental illness and substance use treatment are covered.
That said, the fight is NOT over. In order to become law, the bill will need to pass the Senate and then be signed by the President. We must not let this happen.
Thank you for making countless calls, showing up to town halls, and posting on social media to stop the AHCA. We must continue this fight in the Senate, and we hope that you will join us.
Throughout this next phase, we will share important updates and opportunities to take action. Both Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois have been outspoken supporters of the Affordable Care Act and we thank them for their leadership on this critical issue.
Thresholds remains committed to preserving health coverage and access to treatment, and we know you do too. Onward, together.
Press Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172
Donor Spotlight – The Martin Foundation, Inc.
Thresholds is proud to feature The Martin Foundation, Inc. in our Donor Spotlight. Established in 1953 by Lee and Geraldine Martin, The Martin Foundation, Inc. has created a legacy of philanthropy, making transformative gifts that support a range of issues, including: education, women and children, the arts, and the environment.
Since 1983, The Martin Foundation, Inc. has been a generous partner to Thresholds, most recently supporting our Homeless Services Program. Our Homeless Services Program provides a variety of innovative programs that engage and empower individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness on their journeys to recovery. Our Mobile Assessment Units (MAUs) are a key component of our Homeless Services Program, acting as the vital link that connects individuals to services and resources. Each MAU canvasses streets, shelters, CTA lines, and other areas where homeless individuals congregate. After meeting immediate needs and completing the intake process, MAU’s refer these individuals to the most appropriate Thresholds program, which link them to housing and comprehensive support services. Today, Thresholds has eight Mobile Assessment Units. Last year, they engaged nearly 3,000 homeless individuals.
We are grateful to The Martin Foundation, Inc. for their long-time partnership. In their more than 30 years of support, they have donated over $200,000 to Thresholds, giving hope to thousands of individuals experiencing serious mental illness.
Evaluation Department Field Notes
Here at Thresholds, the Evaluation Department is helping to drive improvements in our programs by providing relevant, timely data to staff across our 100 treatment teams. In the process, the department is also documenting Thresholds’ performance as we move to value-based care in an increasingly competitive health care market.
Behavioral Health Providers Poised to Lead
Specialty behavioral health providers like Thresholds historically have utilized person-centered, trusting relationships and done whatever is needed to support individuals with complex social and health needs. These providers have served a valuable function within the healthcare system for many years by disrupting the cycle of high-cost and inappropriate institutional care like emergency rooms, hospitals, and jails. Our approach helps people with serious mental illnesses live successfully in the community. Community behavioral health care providers like Thresholds are poised to take the lead in the shift to value-based care by continuing to improve outcomes and document value, two activities that depend on harnessing data.
As calls increase to transform the health care delivery system from one designed to treat acute conditions to one that is also able to treat chronic conditions, including behavioral health conditions, community behavioral health providers have a lot to offer as both partners and leaders. Evidence increasingly shows that health outcomes are improved by employing intensive, evidence-based practices to activate patients to work toward health goals and lifestyle modifications.
Data Helps You Stand Out in a Competitive Healthcare Market
As insurers and hospitals are encouraged to work towards better outcomes, increased efficiency, and better quality care, they are looking to behavioral health providers for guidance and partnerships, and Thresholds is positioned to play that role. One way to prepare for and attract such healthcare partnerships is to identify the most complex patients and examine operational and care processes. We gathered data to identify those who were experiencing frequent inpatient re-admissions for reasons like unmanaged diabetes, blood pressure, or schizophrenia, targeting groups whose improvements would impact both social and health sector systems. While re-admissions and volume of services used is not the only way to define high need, it allows providers to start with a small, high acuity group (4% in Thresholds’ case) who with better support in managing their illness would also reduce costs for the larger health system.
Data Improves Quality of Care
To help our teams work most effectively with high-need patients and to measure our performance in doing so, Thresholds Evaluation Department created interactive dashboard reports that merge Medicaid claims data with Thresholds electronic health care data so that we can track outcomes over time for clients who are struggling with managing their multiple conditions. These semi-automated reports allow teams to better manage their caseloads based on need, ask different questions about the most high-need patients, and make decisions about clinical intervention effectiveness over time by tracking frequency of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and incarcerations.
Doing this improves outcomes, orients staff to value-based care, and will contribute to a generation of new best-practices in engaging and supporting individuals with the most complex needs. Behavioral health specialty providers have a long history of addressing the social determinants of health as the first and most important step in engaging and treating serious mental health conditions. Indeed, such providers have incredible skill in building trusting relationships, linking individuals to and helping them maintain housing, and providing care management to those who have not been able to access or have not been well engaged in other healthcare settings. Through the use of data to inform front-line practice and client care, Thresholds is making strides in demonstrating our commitment to helping the most high-need clients who are shared across social and health sectors. Thresholds’ Evaluation Department is happy to discuss the design of these interactive dashboards – and will continue to partner with Thresholds clinical staff to refine and optimize them for clinical use.
Kristin Davis, PhD, is the Director of Evaluation at Thresholds, where she leads information-based decision making and uses data to improve organizational performance. She has also designed and led grant-funded research studies for Thresholds, with a focus on integrated healthcare and wellness.
We are encouraged by the Trump Administration’s announcement yesterday on the creation of the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis aimed at addressing the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. In 2015, opioid overdoses claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Americans. We must tackle this epidemic with a full commitment to evidence-supported treatment.
However, the Administration’s plan to gut Medicaid (the primary payer in the U.S. for substance use and mental health treatment) by $880 billion over the next ten years, along with its proposal to cut $5.8 billion from the National Institute of Health (the federal agency charged with research on new treatment approaches), hardly squares with a commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic. An estimated 24 million Americans would lose healthcare coverage (and access to substance use treatment) under the Administration’s recent push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
We urge the Commission to build upon the bipartisan support for the 21st Century Cures Act which was signed into law last year to strengthen research on innovative and evidence-based therapies and treatments. We also invite the Commission to work from the Surgeon General’s most recent report, which explores in detail substance use and addiction in America and what can be done in policy and practice to address it. And lastly, we call upon the Administration to appoint a director to lead the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, a critical partner to the Commission as it embarks on its charge.
While we are encouraged by the President’s willingness to establish a commission dedicated to addressing the opioid epidemic, in order to make a real difference the Administration must also demonstrate its commitment to access to health coverage and evidence-supported treatment for the millions of people across our country living with an opioid addiction.
Donor Spotlight – Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute
Thresholds is excited to feature the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute in this month’s Donor Spotlight. The Sprague Institute, established in 1911, is committed to investigating the cause of disease and pursuing the prevention and relief of human suffering throughout Chicago. Among their many early achievements, medical researchers from the Sprague Institute were involved with early trials of insulin, treatments for schizophrenia, and discovering the cause of scarlet fever.
More recently, the foundation has helped launch city-wide health initiatives like The Chicago Asthma Consortium, the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), and Healthy Chicago 2.0.
In addition to remaining at the forefront of medical research, the Sprague Institute is committed to supporting social services throughout the City of Chicago.
Thresholds is grateful to the Sprague Institute Board for their generous grant that will help implement an agency-wide call service center. Currently, individuals seeking to reach Thresholds have hundreds of phone numbers to choose from, representing our many sites, programs, and staff members. This new call center will be the single point of entry for all inquiries related to clinical, business, or operational services. Set to launch in October 2017, this updated, state-of-the-art call service center will improve our ability to meet the needs and requests of our diverse stakeholders more efficiently and effectively—enhancing service delivery to our more than 15,000 clients.
Thanks to the Sprague Institute’s generosity, Thresholds has the resources needed for this transformative improvement. We could not do this work without the support of funders like the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute!