Thresholds

My Love for Thresholds

By former Thresholds Board of Directors President, Marianne Doan

I have been honored to contribute to Thresholds in a variety of ways for almost 10 years. Before that time, I occasionally volunteered at a variety of organizations and donated to many causes that I felt were important. I started to feel that I wanted to really make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, and began to focus my time and donations.

There were so many opportunities, so I took some time to think about what really matters. I was so lucky to grow up in a big and loving family! Our oldest sister, Kathy, experienced a major trauma and the onset of mental illness in her mid-teen years. I remember vividly the way my friends looked at her and embarrassingly looked away, or how my brothers and sisters and I tried to avoid getting her upset. Kathy has lived her entire adult live with serious mental illness, and the continued stares and avoidance and neglect are hard to overcome. My parents raised us with strong family values of love for each other, service to others and constant pursuit of social justice. I wanted to give to an organization that shares these values and is committed to creating a future of hope and opportunity for people like Kathy. I fell in love with Thresholds and have been a donor ever since. This feeling grows every time I meet one of the Threshold staff, and I am inspired by their compassionate care!

Over the years, I have tried to share my passion with others in hopes that they, too, will give to Thresholds. I sometimes find a real hesitation, maybe even fear, to support mental health causes, due to the headlines that correlate mental illness and violence, and the stigma attached to it. But when I share stories about the clients Thresholds serves – young mothers and veterans and teens experiencing their first episode – and the services they provide – housing and supported employment – a funny thing happens. Literally everyone has a relative, friend or colleague who has been touched by mental illness. When you think about these people you know, and learn how Thresholds promotes dignity and provides opportunities for them to achieve self sufficiency, it is frankly hard not to give. When you think of it this way, it is more of an investment in our community with a pretty awesome return!

 

 

Marianne Doan has been a loyal supporter of Thresholds for more than a decade. She served as the President of the Board of Directors, and still remains on the board today.

Ensuring All Young People are Equipped to Live Well and Thrive: The Case for Expanding Early Treatment

By Thresholds’ Program Director of Emerge and MindStrong, Jose Viruet

The transition into adulthood is often turbulent for many young people. For youth with mental health conditions, that transition can be even more difficult. To help ease the transition and ensure that all young people have what they need to succeed and thrive, early identification of mental health conditions and treatment that is tailored to the unique needs of youth and young adults are critical.

Emerging adults are in a period when they are navigating school, first jobs, blossoming social lives, romantic relationships, changing family connections, the desire for independence, and so much more. For some, the experience of these newfound challenges and responsibilities is further complicated by the onset of a mental health condition.

With this in mind, a comprehensive set of services delivered together as a package has been shown to be very effective for supporting young people learning to manage their mental health conditions. This type of approach helps stabilize the young person’s condition, equip the family to better understand their child’s condition, and set the youth up for a bright and healthy future. These youth-driven, wrap-around models are research-backed and considered best practice. They go beyond traditional methods of providing mental healthcare by building upon the basics of individual counseling and medication with impactful additions like group therapy, peer support, case management, family education, supportive education, supportive employment, and youth development opportunities.

Mental health conditions are highly treatable and recovery is possible. Particularly for young people at the beginning of their journeys, early treatment can make a lifetime of difference. Getting the right care at the right time can mean the difference between a longer, healthier life, the ability to engage positively at school, work, and home, and the risk of repeated hospitalizations, criminal justice involvement, homelessness, and disability. The good news is we know what works; we just need more of it.

Targeted treatment approaches are essential to supporting young people living with significant mental health conditions and to enabling them to live well and thrive. Successful treatment is not just about managing symptoms. It is also about managing all the ways those symptoms can affect a person’s life and family, and equipping the person with the tools he/she needs to overcome those symptoms in order to meet his/her goals and excel. Sadly, there is not nearly enough early treatment available today and many young people are being left behind. More must be done to improve access to early treatment that works – there is simply too much at stake.

 

Jose Viruet is Program Director for Emerge and MindStrong, Thresholds’ first episode psychosis treatment program. In this role, he leads teams of highly qualified of clinicians at our youth and young adult programs which focus on supporting young people with significant mental health conditions and their families. He is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, a Certified Reciprocal Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor, and a longtime mental health and youth advocate. More on Thresholds’ youth and young adult programs here.

Illinois Approved for $2B in Mental Health and Substance Use Projects through Medicaid Waiver

Approval of 1115 Medicaid Waiver lends promise to future mental health treatment system in Illinois.

Yesterday, mental health and substance use advocates were excited to receive Governor Rauner’s announcement that the federal government approved Illinois’ long-anticipated 1115 Medicaid Waiver proposal. This waiver is the cornerstone of the Administration’s Behavioral Health Transformation Plan, with nearly $2 billion in new investment to implement 10 pilots over the next 5 years. These waiver projects will seed innovative treatment services and build a more comprehensive continuum of care.

The waiver dovetails with the Administration’s Integrated Health Homes State Plan Amendment to improve the coordination of physical and mental healthcare, expand community-based and in-home services, and reduce the need for emergency and high-end services.

Approved services include:

  • substance use treatment and recovery services
  • case management for individuals with substance use conditions
  • housing services and community integration assistance
  • supported employment services
  • crisis stabilization and intervention
  • peer recovery support services
  • evidence-based home visits
  • respite services

Regrettably, the State’s proposal to expand First Episode Psychosis (FEP) treatment was not approved by the federal government for inclusion in the waiver. Recognizing the importance of getting care when symptoms first begin, this year Thresholds has worked with the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition to introduce two legislative bills seeking to expand access to early treatment for significant mental health conditions under both Medicaid and private insurance. In the absence of an FEP pilot, we look forward to the opportunity to work with the Administration and General Assembly to advance access to life-saving early treatment.

We commend the Administration for their work on the waiver. This multi-agency initiative has enjoyed widespread support among stakeholders and bi-partisan support among lawmakers. As Illinois continues to struggle with a longstanding mental health crisis and an increasingly deadly opioid epidemic, the waiver represents a promising opportunity to move Illinois’ treatment system in the right direction. However, it is important to remember that this is just one step of many that needs to be taken to build access to treatment more broadly, including ensuring adequate reimbursement rates, growing the workforce, and improving coverage of proven treatment approaches.

As Illinois enters into annual budget negotiations, we hope that the collaborative spirit of the waiver will serve as an inspiration for our leaders in Springfield to come together to ensure Illinois’ mental health and substance use treatment system is sustainable and stably funded.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but Advocating for Better Access to Mental Health Treatment is a Year-Round Effort

By Illinois State Senator, Melinda Bush

As an Illinois state legislator, one of the things I want to tackle is the state’s mental health crisis.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a unique opportunity we have each year to call attention to an important issue that goes overlooked far too often. But the need for more awareness about mental health and getting help when it is needed is not a campaign limited to just the month of May – it is an ongoing effort that deserves our attention the whole year long.

This year I have had the pleasure of working with Thresholds and the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives (HMHL) Coalition on two pieces of legislation aimed at improving treatment options for Illinoisans. These bills will strengthen coverage for early mental health and substance use treatment for youth and young adults. I am proud to sponsor both of these proposals because everyone deserves access to treatment and the type of insurance you have should not determine what kind of care you are able to receive. We know that most serious mental health conditions show up in a person’s teens or early twenties, so there is no reason someone should have to go years without the services and supports they need to be healthy and get well.

I am excited that our bills are strongly bi-partisan and gaining momentum in Springfield. As the bills’ sponsor, it is my job to steer the bills through the state legislature and work to get them signed into law. But I could not do this without the partnership of mental health advocates like the HMHL Coalition. Advocates play a critical role in shaping good public policy by keeping legislators up to date on the needs of our communities and educating us about opportunities to make a difference for those we serve.

Over the past few months, members of the Coalition, including parents, treatment and youth service providers, and persons with lived experience of mental health conditions, met with dozens of lawmakers from across the state to share their stories and to ask for support for the HMHL bills. Those conversations provided valuable insights from constituents about what they are dealing with and what lawmakers can do to improve access to treatment. First-hand accounts bring issues to life, helping lawmakers to understand them better and inspiring us to take action on some of the biggest challenges facing our communities, including an unspoken mental health crisis and a lethal opioid epidemic.

Never underestimate the impact you can have by sharing your story. You are an expert in your experience and raising your voice is powerful. Advocates like the members of the HMHL Coalition are moving mental health and substance use treatment to the top of the agenda. As we kick-off Mental Health Awareness Month, remember that the need for awareness raising and advocacy is ongoing. Together we can bring about much-needed changes to the treatment system but that can only happen if we make mental health a priority all year round.

 

 
State Senator Melinda Bush has served for 5 years representing the 31st District in the northern suburbs of Chicago. She is a member of Senate Human Services Committee and sponsor of this year’s Healthy Minds Healthy Lives legislation, SB2951 – Early Mental Health and Addictions Treatment Act and SB3213 – Fair Insurance Coverage for Families for Early Treatment of Serious Mental Health Conditions Act.

For more on the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition, please visit the Coalition’s webpage.

Supporting the Spectrum of Mental Health

By Jasmine Watkins, Clinical Director at Motivent Total Health

As an undergraduate psychology major, I was required to take Abnormal Psychology, an ironically named class where I learned how common it is to experience some degree of mental health concern. I remember being surprised by how closely DSM diagnostic criteria fit the stories of those around me. I also remember realizing symptoms exist on a spectrum; just because something isn’t clinically significant according to a diagnostic manual, doesn’t mean it can’t still cause psychological pain.

This past year, I had the opportunity to help launch Motivent Total Health, Thresholds’ multi-specialty group practice in the western suburbs of Illinois. As someone who has worked in a variety of mental health settings, I was excited to be part of this initiative as it represents a broadening of Thresholds services. Since 1959, the majority of Thresholds’ services have been focused on persons with a diagnosis of a severe and persistent mental illness. At Motivent Total Health, clinicians provide counseling to individuals dealing with more mild mood and anxiety disorders, major life transitions, workplace stress, and relationship issues.

Launching the practice has reminded me of what I learned in that undergraduate class. People accessing varying levels of care may differ in the goals they are working towards and the barriers they encounter as they strive to achieve them. However, the path to change is consistent. Motivational interviewing continues to play an essential role in helping individuals commit to change. Acknowledging a person’s strengths and building on them is equally as integral. And it is similarly crucial to establish an individualized treatment plan aimed at assisting people with developing coping strategies.

No matter the resources we assume a person may or may not have, mental health transcends all areas of society. This is why mental health treatment continues to be so important. Everyone can benefit from a safe environment where they can explore past patterns, navigate through life’s challenges, focus on reducing stress, and concentrate on living a meaningful life.

Jasmine Watkins Headshot
Jasmine Watkins is the Clinical Director at Motivent Total Health. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with ten years’ experience working with adolescents and adults on a wide range of clinical issues including, anxiety, substance use, grief and loss, specific phobias, depression, relationship concerns, and issues related to major life transitions. Learn more about Motivent Total Health here.

Donor Spotlight: James P. & Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation

Donor Spotlight: James P. & Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation

The James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation is committed to supporting education, the arts, housing, and other vital social services. Since its founding in 2002, the foundation has had a transformative impact on organizations servicing the Chicago area.

In 2015, the Grusecki Family Foundation made its first gift to Thresholds in support of the Veterans Project. The Veterans Project integrates Thresholds’ award-winning, evidence-based practices and strategic partnerships into a comprehensive program designed specifically for U.S. military veterans experiencing PTSD, depression, and other mental illnesses. Veterans Project staff represent every branch of service and include individuals in recovery from mental illness. Examples of the program’s services include case management, rapid and long-term housing support, employment and education preparation, trauma therapy, and substance use treatment. In 2010, the Veterans Project launched the Women Veterans Health Initiative, which provides a range of services tailored to the unique needs of the women veteran population.

We are excited to highlight The James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation this month. Over the past three years, they have generously increased their giving to Thresholds, contributing $80,000 to the Veterans Project. We are grateful for their consistent support and for their commitment to our nation’s brave service members.

Federal budget boosts funding for mental health and substance use programs

The new federal budget will increase support for mental health and substance use programs, but falls short in strengthening and stabilizing the Affordable Care Act.

White HouseOn Friday, the President signed a bi-partisan budget passed by Congress and the Senate, averting a federal government shut-down. The $1.3 trillion budget funds government services through September 2018.

We were pleased to see strengthened investment in several mental health and substance use treatment programs. An increased investment of $4 billion was appropriated to address the nation’s worsening opioid crisis. The spending plan supports funding for treatment-related programs, such as opioid response grants for states, opioid and pain management research, and specialty courts aimed at diverting those with mental health and substance use conditions from the justice system toward care.

While there is much to be celebrated in the budget, we are disappointed that agreement could not be reached in other key areas, such as stabilization of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplace. The ACA has expanded access to healthcare and improved coverage for millions of Americans. Recent efforts at the federal level threaten to undo this progress.

Mental health and substance use services have been chronically underfunded for decades. The additional funding in the federal budget for these programs is an important step in the right direction. However, we also recognize the foundational role that Medicaid plays in ensuring access to treatment. Over the past year, Congress has made several attempts to cut Medicaid. Any cuts to Medicaid undercut access to treatment for millions.

Building on the collaboration that went into the federal budget, we urge our elected officials to come together to develop a package of provisions to strengthen and stabilize the Affordable Care Act and keep comprehensive healthcare affordable and accessible to all.

Illinois’ healthcare system must expand to include evidence-informed services, specifically for young adults

Illinois’ current system of care has not adapted to meet the mental health needs of today’s youths and young adults.

A vast and increasing number of 26 year-olds are still financially dependent on or living with their families. Similarly, the average age of marriage is 29 years old and increasing, signifying youth reaching their traditional adult achievements later in life. It is clear that the typical developmental periods of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood have changed over time and have given way to a new developmental age between approximately 16 and 26 years old, characterized as emerging adulthood, young adulthood, or transition-age youth. This is a critical time when, more than any other developmental period, young people are moving around, experimenting with their careers, and engaging in an increased number of sexual and social relationships.

The young adulthood phase is also when we see the highest prevalence rate of onset of mental illnesses. Yet, this group is the least likely to seek mental health services.

At the time when life may be most confusing and services are needed most, our Illinois service system is also most fragmented. Caught in between two worlds, with two service systems in Illinois that do not connect well with each other, our system of care has not caught up to this critical period of young adulthood that has life-long implications for health. Young people lose their eligibility for youth services, and do not connect well with adult-based services that are principally built for older generations with chronic mental and physical health needs.

Unable to get the services they need, young adults often fall off the transition cliff. Without proper access to treatment, there is a critical lapse in care, resulting in another generation of adults with increasing mental health and substance use issues. Ultimately, the system forces these young adults to seek treatment through self-medication, costly psychiatric hospitalizations, or incarceration.

We can end this cycle. Focusing on community-based services specifically geared toward young people at the earliest signs of mental health struggles can make the difference between a life of chronic hardship and need and a life on track to succeed.

There is no better opportunity to help young people get on track for adulthood than during their late adolescence/young adult years. In adult mental health services, we embrace the concept of “recovery” from mental illness. Young people who are just experiencing these issues do not identify with that concept. Instead, we need to embrace the concept of “discovery” for young adults. We have a golden opportunity in these transition years to build self-discovery that can last one’s entire life by helping young people to answer questions such as, “What works best in managing my mental health symptoms, who in my life are my best supporters, what kind of work/school environment best fits me, and will my symptoms define my whole life?” Having a team of dedicated service providers paired with a young person and their family to navigate their transition to adulthood builds the self-discovery, successful treatment, and support to change the trajectory so young people stay on track for success in adulthood.

At Thresholds, this type of early intervention is provided by a team of dedicated service providers, a young person, and their family through a program called “Emerge.” These teams are built using evidence-based approaches specifically dedicated to young adults with mental health challenges, with specialization in creatively engaging young people at their earliest point of need. The staff on these teams work in the communities, in homes or sometimes in offices-wherever the young person and their family feel most comfortable. Emerge provides coaching around all social determinants of health, often multiple times a week. This includes creative therapy approaches to manage symptoms and trauma; care coordination to build goals and life skills; supported employment and education to get back on track with vocational success; medication monitoring, community activities to build socialization and friendship bonds, peer supports to reduce stigma so young people and families don’t have to feel like they are alone, and more.

Programs like Emerge and others around the country have demonstrated success, yet are not part of Illinois’ system of care.

In the absence of adequate treatment, we know all too well of the crippling life-long toll mental illness will exert on young people and families. We know the massive costs that accompany high end, life-long treatment. We also know the services that work best for young adults to interrupt this trajectory, yet our Illinois funding models do not support these services. By investing in services at the earliest signs of serious mental health needs for young adults which cost a fraction of deep end care, we can successfully save dollars and save lives.


Marc Fagan, Psy.D. is the Vice President of Clinical Operations and Youth Services at Thresholds, overseeing comprehensive programs for youth and young adults with serious mental health needs. Dr. Fagan provides consultation and training locally and nationally to audiences regarding best practices with young adults, and participates in numerous work groups dedicated to improving outcomes for young people in care. 

Report: Illinois’ mental health crisis will linger until investments are made in mental health and substance use treatment services

Medicaid revisions – including early treatment for youth, and access to affordable mental healthcare and addiction treatment – are necessary to combat the state’s deadly substance use and mental health crisis.

In a report released today, Thresholds, the state’s largest provider of community mental health services, makes several recommendations for the path Illinois must take to address its long-standing mental health crisis.

The report outlines concrete recommendations for the early treatment of youth with serious mental health conditions. These recommendations have the potential to reduce suicide rates, prevent disability, and decrease the likelihood of addiction as a method of self-medication.  A standout proposal on early treatment is the creation and coverage of youth-focused treatment models tailored specifically for adolescents and young adults, as this is often the age range when mental health symptoms first appear. This type of treatment can prevent a lifetime of disability and reliance on public support. Yet Illinois’ adult-focused system prevents many youth from receiving necessary treatment until they are experiencing debilitating and irreversible illness.

The report also includes recommendations on growing access to both mental health and substance use treatment services, which is crucial as the state grapples with the increasing number of opioid overdose deaths. The state must revise Medicaid reimbursement rates to allow for the growth of treatment services. Unless this step is taken, thousands across Illinois will be forced to go without treatment, and overdose deaths and suicide rates will continue to rise unabated.

The report also addresses expanding the mental health workforce through the creation of a number of incentives for the practice of mental health and substance use treatment in workforce shortage areas.
The investments outlined in the report could save the state an estimated $1.9 billion annually if enacted, as well as save thousands of lives through early treatment.

We hope the report will help guide Illinois lawmakers as they consider how to address Illinois’ mental health crisis.

 

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About Thresholds
Established in 1959, Thresholds provides healthcare, housing, and hope for thousands of persons with mental illnesses and substance use conditions in Illinois. Through research, employment, advocacy, care, and housing, Thresholds assists and inspires individuals to reclaim their lives.

Media Contact
For more information, contact Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, at 773.572.5172 or Emily.moen@thresholds.org.

Thresholds response to Governor Rauner’s annual budget address

Illinois’ budget must put the state’s opioid epidemic and mental health crisis front-and-center in more than name only

CHICAGO, IL – Yesterday, Governor Rauner outlined spending priorities in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. While we were pleased that the Administration’s priorities include combating opioid addiction and addressing systemic challenges in access to mental healthcare, the overall proposed budget does not support these priorities. In fact, it undermines them.

As this year’s state budget process gets underway, we call on the Governor and the General Assembly to work together to develop a responsible budget that fosters strong communities by investing in the public services that Illinoisans want and deserve, including mental health and substance use treatment services.

Well-supported public services are the cornerstones of healthy, vibrant communities. The introduced budget would harm access to healthcare and human services by cutting funding for substance use prevention, mental healthcare, supportive housing, and Medicaid. Illinoisans deserve better.

We are also alarmed by the Governor’s proposal to cut state revenue by rolling back tax rates. Returning Illinois’ income tax rate to near 2014 levels was a bi-partisan measure aimed at restoring fiscal stability and preserving vital programs. Even under current tax rates, Illinois does not generate sufficient revenue to support essential programs Illinoisans count on like healthcare, social services, and public education – the building blocks of strong communities. Illinois must maintain all current revenue sources to preserve support for needed public services.

As communities across our state struggle to combat an unspoken mental health crisis and increasingly lethal opioid epidemic, ensuring access to treatment must be a top priority – now more than ever. The proposed state budget should support these priorities in more than name only.

We urge Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to take the opportunity before them to design a state budget that reflects the priorities of Illinoisans and adequately and sustainably funds critical public services that equip our communities to stay healthy and thrive.

Media Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172