Thresholds Veterans Project Assists Chicago Veterans with Mental Health, Housing

The Thresholds Veteran Project

This Veterans Day, we salute those who have served our country. The Thresholds Veterans Project employs veterans who serve their peers, giving our Chicago-area veterans the care and resources they need to recover from mental illness, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.

Approximately 11% of the entire population in the United States are veterans experiencing homelessness. Of that population, 50% are also living with a serious mental illness, and 70% are struggling with a substance use disorder.

The Thresholds Veterans Project can help. Integrating our award-winning, evidence-based practices and strategic partnerships, the Veterans Project includes homeless outreach, housing services, supported employment, peer-driven supports, substance abuse treatment, integrated physical and mental health services, and trauma-based therapies

Last year, they successfully provided 81% of clients with permanent housing. An estimated 70% of clients in the Veterans Project with a substance use disorder reported a “positive change in use” in the last 12 months.

Thresholds is proud to serve more than 300 veterans through our Veterans Project – a number that continues to increase each year. We believe in serving those who have served us, and that everyone deserves to live their fullest lives, regardless of their past experiences; and we know that recovery is possible!

Lisa’s Story

After returning from the military, veteran Lisa* did not have anywhere to go. She was pregnant, living in her car, and living with a mental illness. As a survivor of sexual trauma, she was feeling lost and hopeless for her future. Then she found Thresholds. Within a week’s time, she became a client of the Thresholds Veterans Project, received the support she was missing, and a home of her very own. Lisa is now open to receive the recovery treatment and services she needs.

As a senior veteran, Lisa was having a hard time managing his mental illness and substance use disorder on his own. Since coming to Thresholds, he has received supports such as housing, money management, medication education, and treatment services unique to his needs. He is a frequent participant in the Thresholds Veterans Project program and activities, and his quality of life has greatly improved.

Support the Thresholds Veterans Project

If you would like to financially support the Veterans Project, please visit our donation page. If you are a veteran from any war having a hard time coping with your mental illness, trauma, or issues such as homelessness, substance abuse, etc., please contact Fernando Valles, Director of the Veterans Project, at (773) 537-3154.

*Name changed per client request

Thresholds Named Chicago Tribune Top Workplace for Fourth Consecutive Year

Today, the Chicago Tribune announced its list of the top 125 workplaces in Chicago and for the fourth time in a row, Thresholds is on the list. Thresholds is ranked #22 out of large employers with more than 1,000 employees.

This award is a strong testament to our staff’s culture of caring and support, both for our clients and for each other. Every day, they are working hard in often challenging circumstances to promote recovery for persons with serious mental illnesses and substance use conditions.

The top workplaces in Chicago are evaluated based on feedback from employee surveys conducted by Energage that measured key qualities such as company leadership, communication, career opportunities, working environment, managerial skills, pay, and benefits.

“This award means so much to Thresholds because it showcases our incredible staff, who work tirelessly in pursuit of our mission to help people with mental illnesses and substance use conditions. We could not succeed without our incredibly dedicated and talented workforce,” says Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds.

“The Chicago Tribune has been part of the economic vibrancy of Chicago for 170 years,” said Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Bruce Dold. “We are proud to recognize those companies that stand out for their commitment to their employees and the community.”

Thresholds joined fellow honorees and more than 700 Chicago executives at the Top Workplaces 2017 event on November 9 to celebrate their accomplishments.

To join our team, visit our jobs board.

Donor Spotlight: Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Donor Spotlight: Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Janssen Pharmaceuticals is committed to providing safe and effective medicines and the services and supports that contribute to healthy outcomes. Since 2014, Janssen has been a generous supporter of Thresholds, most recently funding our innovative MindStrong program.

Thresholds’ MindStrong program provides early intervention services to young adults, ages 15-30, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who are experiencing first episode psychosis. Dedicated to providing the right supports at the earliest signs of need, MindStrong uses rapid assessment and individualized care planning to address the effects of psychosis on school, work, relationships, independence, and identity development.

MindStrong gives individuals experiencing first episode psychosis the supports needed for a hopeful, successful recovery. We are grateful to Janssen Pharmaceuticals for their generosity – for believing in our work and in the individuals we serve.

President’s Opioid Plan Must Go Further

Last week, President Trump declared the deadly opioid crisis plaguing communities across the nation a public health emergency. We commend the President for shining a spotlight on this epidemic. Opioid addiction has skyrocketed in recent years and tragically so too have the related overdoses and deaths.

The President highlighted his plans for addressing this critical issue which included lifting regulations that have historically posed barriers to accessing treatment. While this is an important step in the right direction, notably absent was the mention of any new investment in prevention or treatment. This is an unfortunate missed opportunity – without a substantial investment in addiction treatment, as well as related mental health treatment, the epidemic will continue to rage unabated.

Current federal investment in strengthening the access to treatment made possible through the bi-partisan 21st Century Cures Act comes to an end next year. Meanwhile, Congress, with the support of the President, has continued to push for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and catastrophic cuts to Medicaid – a primary source of health coverage for many living with substance use conditions and associated mental health conditions. Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans with these conditions have gained access to treatment because of the ACA and Medicaid. Misguided attempts to dismantle the ACA and cut Medicaid threaten access to the very life-saving treatment that is needed to stem this epidemic.

We urge the President to build on his commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic by calling for investment in evidence-informed prevention and community-based treatment, ending attacks on the ACA and Medicaid, and promoting improved coverage for treatment.

The reality is the battling the opioid crisis will take time and significant investment at the national and state levels. By the President’s own account, no community has been spared – both rural and urban, rich and poor alike have been devastated by opioid addiction. While recognizing the severity of the problem and removing administrative barriers to accessing treatment are important first steps, much more is needed.

Yusuf’s Story

Yusuf’s Story

Before finding Thresholds, Yusuf struggled with an untreated mental illness and substance use disorders that left him living on the streets and eventually institutionalized. “I didn’t know how much it affected me because I didn’t know the difference,” Yusuf said, “I was out of touch with reality.” In 2009, Yusuf was transferred to a Thresholds ACT team, a service that provides intensive support to ensure clients are able to take the first steps toward recovery.

Photo of Thresholds member Yusef and his cat

For Yusuf, having a safe and stable place to live was the key to his recovery. After he began receiving Thresholds’  services, he was able to secure housing and, with hard work and dedication, reclaim his life. “Now I have something to lose and if I mess up now, I won’t live long enough to turn it back around.”

Today, Yusuf is a proud mental health advocate and self-proclaimed stay-at-home cat dad. He spends his time reading and providing support to other Thresholds clients. “That’s how someone reached me, with their story,” Yusuf said, “I feel I can share my story to help others.”

Yusuf has used Thresholds’ services to create a fulfilling life that he’s proud of and completed his home with the addition of his cat, Patti, who has also become part of his support system. “Having my pet has really helped me in my recovery. It has helped me to care and love other life,” he said, “I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

Thresholds to Open New Service Center

Thresholds to Open New Service Center

This fall, Thresholds will open our new Service Center that will serve as a single point of entry for all inquiries related to clinical, business, and operational services.

A licensed clinician (LCSW) will supervise the department to ensure quality control, providing feedback and intervention for questions and situations requiring clinical expertise – particularly in times of crisis. When possible, the Service Center will also screen and route individuals, centralizing the scheduling process for referrals. Implementing this system will allow Thresholds staff to respond faster to general inquiries and calls, and make necessary linkages throughout the agency in a more thoughtful and efficient manner.

All of this is made possible through generous grants from the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute and the Michael Reese Health Trust, who have donated $285,000 and $200,000 respectively.

Beginning October 2, 2017, all calls will be routed through the Service Center at (773) 572-5500.

Donor Spotlight: Hoellen Family Foundation

Donor Spotlight: Hoellen Family Foundation

This month, Thresholds is pleased to feature the Hoellen Family Foundation. For the past three years, the Hoellen Family Foundation has been a generous supporter of Thresholds’ fully accredited secondary education program, the Loren E. Juhl School.

Founded in 1974, the Loren E. Juhl School serves young adults (ages 16 – 21) with complex mental health needs. A trusted referral partner of the Chicago Public School system, Juhl School has a 20-25 student enrollment and boasts 5-to-1 teacher-to-student ratios. Students of Loren E. Juhl also have access to the full range of services provided by Thresholds’ innovative Young Adult Program (YAP), including: housing support and placement, vocational and educational services, access to individual and group therapies, and psychiatric and primary healthcare.

The Hoellen Family Foundation has been a great partner to Loren E. Juhl School, most recently funding a much-needed update to the school’s computer lab. With their support, students of Loren E. Juhl received the technological resources needed to stay on track with their education. Thank you for believing in the students we serve!

Recent Senate Healthcare Actions Are Outrageous

Thresholds Statement: Senate Bills to Repeal and Replace Affordable Care Act Threaten Access to Care for Millions Living With Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions

Chicago, IL – Yesterday, the Senate took a procedural vote to begin debate on healthcare repeal, moving us one step closer to gutting the protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and making drastic cuts to Medicaid. This is outrageous. Though there have been several versions of the bill and countless amendments, all have one thing in common – they are catastrophic for access to mental health and substance use treatment.

These efforts amount to little more than taking away health coverage from millions of people and slashing hundreds of billions from Medicaid, the primary payer of mental health and substance use treatment. We thank Senators Durbin and Duckworth who stood strong for Illinoisans and voted no.

Roughly 1 million Illinoisans have gained coverage under the ACA, and nearly 348,000 of them are living with a mental health or substance use condition. The ACA was a game changer for American healthcare.

  • Medicaid Expansion extended coverage to 650,000 low income Illinoisans who were previously uninsured.
  • Essential Health Benefits made sure that mental health and substance use treatment and medication are healthcare services all plans must cover.
  • Protections for those with pre-existing conditions ensure that people living with mental health or substance use conditions won’t be denied coverage.
  • Removing lifetime maximums helped those struggling with chronic health conditions – including mental illness and addiction – maintain access to care.

These changes were huge steps in the right direction, and that’s why we are fighting so hard. Repeal efforts aim to turn back the clock on the assurances and coverage gained through the ACA, but they go even further by piling on enormous Medicaid cuts and caps. This is totally unacceptable.

This fight is not over. We must keep pushing back and stay focused on what’s really at stake – people’s ability to live their fullest, healthiest lives. We will keep you updated as the process unfolds and we look forward to working alongside you in support of home, health, and hope.

Mark Ishaug CEO – Thresholds
Press Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172

Thresholds Evaluation Department on Quality and Accountability in Healthcare

Notes from the Field: Quality and Accountability in Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act gave focus and momentum to quality and accountability in healthcare. As we debate the future of healthcare in our country, this should continue to be a focus of any changes or reforms. Value-based healthcare—the concept of linking payment to performance or outcomes achieved relative to costs, rather than the volume of services provided—will continue to be implemented and tested across the healthcare system. Here at Thresholds, that means several things: investing in integrated care and workforce development, partnering with insurers, advocating for standardized measures of value, and developing an evaluation strategy that will lays a foundation for value based care within a fee for service environment.

One part of our strategy is to elevate and focus on process measures, instead of outcome measures. What is a process measure? Process measures are the steps, activities, or evidence-based practices that lead—or you believe lead—to a particular outcome. For example, important process measures in behavioral health include how many consumers with a diagnosis of schizophrenia receive diabetes screening, how many consumers are counseled to stop smoking, and how many consumers have created an action plan to manage their illnesses. Process measures improve quality and can reduce cost by reducing variation in care, and in the process, allowing you to test what outcomes the process measure leads to. Process measures allow providers to systematize their care and allow you to know why you are getting the outcomes you are.

An important process measure that the evaluation department has been tracking is how many of our clients are connected to one of our three integrated care partners. Evidence shows that consistent primary care correlates with lower mortality rates and better management of chronic conditions. As Atul Gwande points out in a recent essay on the value of primary care in the New Yorker, “ … the more complex a person’s medical needs are the greater the benefit of primary care.” For persons with serious mental illness, being linked to a primary care or integrated care partner, with whom we share a philosophy of care and have an ongoing relationship, increases this benefit.

In sum, value-based care has renewed urgency for answers to how to document success and impact. While it is important to document success, it is equally as important to identify those processes, steps and practices that lead to good outcomes. Insofar as processes are often recorded as administrative data, these data are often easier to export, track, and report on than outcome data. Identifying, tracking, and reporting on process measures is a necessary step to improving care and showing good outcomes.

To learn more about Thresholds Evaluation Department, visit

Donor Spotlight: Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County

Donor Spotlight: Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County

Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County LogoThresholds is excited to feature the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County (HFNLC) in our June donor spotlight. The HFNLC, incorporated in June 2006, was funded by the sale of the Saint Therese Medical Center and Victory Memorial Hospital. These two institutions provided compassionate healthcare services to Waukegan and the surrounding communities for most of the 20th century, laying the groundwork for HFNLC’s commitment to solving persistent problems within the healthcare system.

Since first supporting Thresholds nearly a decade ago, HFNLC has made grants to our organization totaling $50,000, most recently supporting Thresholds’ Lake County Program. Thanks to generous support from the HFNLC, the Thresholds Lake County Program had the resources needed to hire a Nurse Care Coordinator. The Nurse Care Coordinator plays an instrumental role in connecting our clients to the full range of health care services needed for a successful recovery. Working closely caseworkers, medical providers, and the broader community, the Nurse Care Coordinator creates a comprehensive education and treatment plan that addresses each client’s mental illness and physical health.

We are grateful to the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County. Because of their support, individuals in Lake County who are experiencing serious mental illness have access to life-saving services. Thank you for believing in Thresholds and the people we serve!