Thresholds Commends Governor for Signing Legislation Strengthening Medicaid

CHICAGO – Thresholds applauds Governor Pritzker for signing into law SB1321, a package of measures aimed at strengthening Illinois’ Medicaid program – the single largest payer of mental health and substance use treatment.

In partnership with advocates from across the state, Thresholds spearheaded provisions in the legislation that pave the way for better continuity of coverage and more innovative approaches to treatment.

Currently, tens of thousands of Illinoisans experience a lapse in healthcare coverage due to inefficient and unnecessarily cumbersome processes each year. As a result, these individuals lose access to medication and other treatment services needed to lead healthy lives, in spite of most people continuing to be eligible for coverage. Through the Protect Our Care IL Coalition, Thresholds worked to secure provisions prompting the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to identify opportunities for streamlining Medicaid eligibility determinations and renewals by better leveraging data and community partnerships.

governer pritzker holding a just-signed bill as the people around him applaud.

Thresholds also helped craft provisions calling on HFS to lead a stakeholder work group focused on modernizing Illinois’ behavioral healthcare system by developing a strategy for scaling up value-based payment (VBP) arrangements. VBP enables better patient outcomes by allowing providers greater flexibility to innovate and tailor services to meet the needs of those living with mental health conditions.

“Today’s signing of SB1321 represents a big step in the right direction for the future of Illinois’ Medicaid program. This law lays the groundwork for important changes for the 3 million Illinoisans who get their healthcare coverage through Medicaid, including thousands of children and adults living with mental health and substance use conditions in communities across our state,” says Heather O’Donnell, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy at Thresholds.

Thresholds will continue to work with the Governor’s administration and stakeholders throughout Illinois to implement the bill and ensure that individuals eligible for Medicaid are able to get and keep their coverage so that they can receive the services they need to live well and thrive.

Media contact: Emily Moen, VP of PR & Marketing, Thresholds (773-572-5172).

“Why I Give” from Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler

Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Northwestern University, as well as a member of the Thresholds Board of Directors.

I was attracted to Thresholds by the scope of their work, particularly the holistic approach they take. My own work focuses on improving engagement in mental health services in underserved communities. Through my work, I have become familiar with Thresholds, as they are a leader in community-based mental health care. While the organization focuses on mental health and substance use disorders, the housing and employment services they offer to clients provides more comprehensive support structures.

As a provider in this city, I know how gravely needed mental health services are and how difficult it is for people with insurance to access and engage with the mental health service system, let alone those who do not have those same privileges. Having spent time embedded in the Thresholds culture, I’m also touched by the remarkable compassion and humaneness with which they treat their clients.

As a black woman, I know mental health is not something adequately discussed in the black community; but as a psychologist myself, I’m also keenly aware of the relationship between mental and physical health. When I look at organizations looking to close the gaps in service availability and treat people with compassion, Thresholds sticks out as exceptional.

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“Why I Give” from Jeremiah Boyd

Jeremiah Boyd is a long-time supporter of Thresholds. He is a Petty Officer 2nd Class in the US Navy.

One of my family members struggled with the challenges of mental illness for years – improper medications, lack of professional help, and more. Finally, by good fortune, she was introduced to Thresholds.

Thresholds set her up with professionals genuinely dedicated to helping others, not only informing her of the benefits and programs available to her, but actively helping her navigate the confusing, complicated systems of care. Watching her recovery was nothing short of remarkable. It would not have been possible without the time, effort, sincerity, and commitment Thresholds put into her treatment.

Thresholds and its staff were instrumental in providing her with a sense of confident independence and stability in many aspects of her life. In my exposure to different mental health providers, agencies, and programs, none of them compare to what Thresholds continually proves itself to be – effective.

As a donor, I’ve had the fortunate pleasure of speaking with a few staff at Thresholds. They reached out to me and expressed interest in just getting to know who I am. I was blown away by the sincerity in this gesture, as it did not come with additional solicitations or hidden agendas. They only wanted to thank me and hear my story.

Further, they offered to explain more about what they do, who they help, and the ways they’re looking to grow . This had a huge impact on my perspective and really reaffirmed and emboldened my desire to contribute to their mission. They topped their previous gesture by inviting me to one of their facilities for a tour and to see exactly where they’re using my contributions. This impressed me more than anything, because when it comes to financially contributing to charitable causes it is wonderful to see your money in action.

Thresholds puts their words into action and makes their actions have lasting impact. This organization has shown me, and I’m sure many others, that they consistently are devoted to their mission and helping those who need it most. This is why I give (and will continue to give) to Thresholds.

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“Why I Give” from Roxanne Martino

Roxanne Martino is a Thresholds Board Member and a Managing Partner of OceanM19.

In January 1991, I sat in on a Thresholds board meeting and lunch as reward for working one of their fundraisers and heard a moving story from the father of one of our clients. His child had been “the perfect daughter”, graduating head of her class and attending Harvard. However, one Christmas she came home and was very quiet, and a few weeks later her university roommate called to say she wouldn’t leave her dorm room. His wife went up to Cambridge to check on her, but when she got there their daughter had vanished. They didn’t hear from her for thirty years, until someone from Thresholds called and told them that they believed a current Thresholds client was their daughter.

One of Thresholds’ Mobile Assessment Unit caseworkers had befriended her in a park, and over the course of many months gained enough trust to learn her legal name. Because of one Thresholds staff’s dedication and persistence, this mother and father found their daughter they thought they’d lost so many years before.

I have been working with Thresholds since 1991 and have never once regretted it. I wanted to help people who were experiencing homelessness in a way that really worked, and found that Thresholds’ services offered the most comprehensive, long-term solutions.

Mental illness is a major issue for a large portion of people experiencing homelessness. Rather than handing out temporary fixes, the staff at Thresholds work with individuals to formulate long-term solutions. Thresholds gains people’s trust, helps them reconnect with their families, gets them access to social security, and provides the mental and physical healthcare they need.

As an individual progresses in their recovery, Thresholds moves with them, supporting them at every level. I think that with all the gifts that I’ve been given, I should spend my time helping those who can’t help themselves or have a very hard time helping themselves. To me, Thresholds is one of the most worthwhile organizations in Illinois because it helps people achieve lasting progress towards recovery and away from homelessness.

Want to add your own support, or increase your existing donation? Go to

Thresholds Applauds Governor Pritzker and Lawmakers for State Budget Increasing Investment in Treatment and Housing

SPRINGFIELD – This weekend, lawmakers concluded their legislative session by passing bi-partisan legislation approving a $40 billion state budget for fiscal year 2020 (FY20), including some increases to funding levels for mental health and substance use services, supportive housing, and construction projects. Governor Pritzker has indicated that he intends to sign the plan into law – good news to healthcare advocates and providers throughout the state.

Funding increases include an additional $40 million for mental health and substance use services delivered through Medicaid, as well as $7 million in targeted new spending to bolster treatment in underserved communities. The proposal also calls for an additional $8.5 million for supportive housing.

There will be a state administrative process that is expected to take a few months for determining what specific mental health services will receive rate increases. We, therefore, are uncertain at this time whether Thresholds’ services will be included, but we remain hopeful and will continue to fight for rates that cover the full cost of services.

The state legislature also approved nearly $45 billion to support capital projects like new construction, facility maintenance, and property acquisition, representing the first major capital infusion Illinois has seen in a decade. Thresholds is thrilled to receive $1.1 million for the establishment of a flagship integrated care center on the south side of Chicago and other projects aimed at expanding our capacity to serve in the city. The proposed budget is a stark departure from the austerity and turmoil that have plagued Illinois in recent years.

The FY20 budget, which is slated to take effect July 1, signifies a renewed commitment to strengthening the public services that are the foundation of healthy and vibrant communities across Illinois.

“Year after year, healthcare and human services have experienced chronic underinvestment that tragically prevented us from reaching the thousands who could benefit from treatment. The proposed new funding in the coming year’s budget represents hope – hope that Illinois has finally started on the road to fiscal stability and a healthier future for all Illinoisans,” says Mark Ishaug, Thresholds CEO.

Increased funding will be supported through a combination of new revenue sources, including the regulation of new industries and state fee adjustments. Legislators also passed legislation to allow voters the option of moving to a graduated income tax, also called the “Fair Tax,” a structure similar to that used by the federal government and in numerous other states, including several in the Midwest region.

We are grateful to the members of the General Assembly for allocating additional funding to strengthen critical public investments and we thank Governor Pritzker for his vision and leadership during the budget development process. We are excited for the opportunity that the FY20 budget presents and we look forward to continuing to work with the Pritzker Administration and the legislature to grow access to treatment and housing so that all Illinoisans can live well and thrive.

Early Treatment Bill Heads to the Governor

Dear Advocates,

WE DID IT! Last night, the Illinois House passed the Children and Young Adult Mental Health Crisis Act (HB2154), groundbreaking legislation that will transform Illinois’ early mental health treatment system. This initiative of the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition now proceeds to the desk of the Governor.

We had the opportunity to work closely with our partners at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on this historic legislation and we are optimistic that Governor Pritzker will sign it into law marking a new chapter for the thousands of families touched by mental health challenges each year. Research tells us that most serious mental health conditions begin to manifest by age 24. Yet, sadly, our treatment system is not structured to respond to the realities of early onset conditions, leaving many to struggle combating their conditions for a lifetime.

This bill aims to change that story and to avoid preventable tragedy. The Children and Young Adult Mental Health Crisis Act shifts the focus from crisis and late stage services to support when symptoms first begin, by:

  • Restructuring the Family Support Program to prevent crisis by making a more robust set of services available sooner rather than later and strengthening family engagement
  • Improving access to preventative services under Medicaid and bringing together decision makers to coordinate investments and align systems
  • Expanding private insurance coverage to include team-based early treatment models proven to curtail the debilitating effects of serious mental health conditions

We owe a debt of gratitude to our fearless sponsors, Representative Sara Feigenholtz and Senator Heather Steans, who are true champions for mental health and whose steadfast leadership helped successfully steer us through the legislative process. We must also thank the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Department of Human Services, and Department of Insurance for collaborating with us to position Illinois as a national leader in early mental health treatment. Finally, we are grateful to the advocates, people with lived experience, and providers around the state who worked so hard year after year to pave the way for this important piece of legislation.

When signed into law, Illinoisans will have access to preventative services and early treatment regardless of insurance type. We hope that this legislation will serve as a model for the nation so that all young people experiencing a serious mental health condition receive the comprehensive care they need to grow healthy and thrive.

Donor Spotlight: Michael Reese Health Trust

Black text saying "Michael Reese Health Trust".

For this month’s Donor Spotlight, we are proud to feature the Michael Reese Health Trust. Since 1995, Michael Reese has supported organizations dedicated to the health and wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable individuals in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Recently, Michael Reese awarded a $75,000 grant to support Thresholds’ public policy and advocacy work. As part of the Health Minds, Healthy Lives Coalition, Thresholds’ policy agenda this year includes major initiatives to grow access to care, including advocacy to significantly increase the state’s Medicaid investment in treatment, and re-focusing the system toward early treatment for children, adolescents and young adults.

Previously, Michael Reese awarded Thresholds a Core grant to launch a call center that streamlined communication throughout the agency, among partner organizations, and with our clients. Over the past two decades, The Michael Reese Health Trust has supported the work we do at Thresholds through more than $600,000 in funding. We are truly grateful for Michael Reese’s support as we continue to help our clients on their paths to recovery and hope!

Mental Health Month – Wendy’s Story

According to the World Health Organization, “there is no health without mental health.” I share my personal story of how mental illness impacted the health and wellness of my sister Debby, cutting her life short, and affecting my life forever.

Debby was my gentle and artistic sister. She lived a very typical life: went to school, had a good job, lived in an apartment of her own (with a cat and dog), and enjoyed going out dancing on the weekends. But that all changed when she told our parents that she started hearing negative, criticizing voices in her head.

In her early twenties, Debby was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia; thus, began the years of various treatments, hospitalizations, medications, and the side effects that came with it all. Debby retreated from her past life, her family, and even herself. Finally, in her forties, mental illness had taken such a toll on her that she was unable to take proper care of herself, and she was moved into a nursing home.

One day a social worker told us about Thresholds – what a turning point!

Debby became a client of Thresholds in 1999, marking the beginning of her new life. She moved into her own apartment again, which made her feel safe and independent, and received comprehensive services through physical and mental health care, substance use treatment, medication management, and nutritional help.

With time, Debby was even able to go back to work with the help of Thresholds Supported Employment Program. She learned computer skills and proudly showed off certificates she earned. We felt much more like a family with her there, visiting her often and taking part in social activities with Thresholds. We were so very proud of her progress!

On Valentine’s Day, 2007, while dreaming of and planning for her future, Debby passed away at 51 years old. As much grief as I felt for her, the sight of her paintings on my wall at home brighten my day. I look at them and I feel hope, not just for myself but for the other Thresholds clients who are on the same recovery journey that she was.

Wendy Morgan is a longtime supporter of Thresholds.

Mental Health Month – Kevin’s Story

I received my Illinois credential as a Certified Recovery Support Specialist in July 2017 and began working at Thresholds as a Peer Support Specialist in January 2018. As someone with lived experience with mental health and substance use conditions, this was a milestone in my recovery. It represented a commitment and self-worth that years of depression and drug addiction had nearly taken away.

My journey includes homelessness, incarceration, a revolving door of detox and mental health centers and isolation from family and friends. Visitors to my apartment used to call it “The Cave” because the shades were always down, there was tape over the peephole and I didn’t allow any noise. I experienced a level of hopelessness and desperation that has allowed me to identify with and have empathy for even the most challenging of situations that our clients may share.

More importantly, my surrender and subsequent recovery have allowed me to provide hope to individuals that may feel frustrated or lost in their own circumstances.

Five years ago, I had reached an emotional low point, and was admitted to a detox center. When that big metal door slammed behind me, I felt like something that had been chasing me for twenty years was shut outside.

Throughout my treatment, I developed the support system and tools that would help me rebuild my life. It wasn’t long before I became the Intake Specialist – assisting others in making the same decision for recovery that I did – for the same center that I was once a patient in. When I was ready to take the next step in my recovery, Thresholds was there.

One of the paradoxes of the 12 Step Program that I identify with is that we must “give it away to keep it”, meaning I maintain my recovery and emotional balance by helping others with theirs. When I step inside the Thresholds Freedom Center I feel a warmth and acceptance that go beyond anything I could have imagined.

Kevin Zeigler is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist working in the Peer Support Program at Thresholds.

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