Bi-partisan Opioid Bill Expanding Access to Treatment Becomes Federal Law

This week, bi-partisan opioid legislation, called the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, was signed into law. We commend both parties and both houses of Congress for coming together to stem the devastating opioid epidemic sweeping the nation.

The package improves access to treatment by establishing grants for comprehensive recovery centers, expanding access to medication assisted treatment, and lifting barriers to residential treatment. At a time when overdose deaths and suicides are reaching record highs, strong action and a united front are needed now more than ever.

While this legislation is an important step in the right direction, it is not a substitute for the larger investment needed to meaningfully grow access to mental health and substance use treatment. Decades of chronic under-investment coupled with Illinois’ recent budget impasse have left a major gap between the amount of treatment available and the number of people needing support. This is a good first step, but it is not enough to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.

We hope that lawmakers will build upon this consensus and commitment to continue to work toward ensuring that all people in all communities have access to the treatment and support they need to recover and thrive.

Media Contact: Emily Moen, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing, 715.308.1951

Donor Spotlight: Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Donor Spotlight: Robert R. McCormick Foundation

logo for robert r. mccormick foundation

In this month’s Donor Spotlight, Thresholds is featuring the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, a long-time supporter and partner of the agency.

The McCormick Foundation’s philanthropic mission is to foster communities of educated, informed, and engaged citizens.Through its generous support, the foundation continues the legacy of Col. Robert R. McCormick to improve the lives of people in the Chicagoland. With more than $1.5B in assets, it provides support through philanthropic grant making and oversees Cantigny Park, a thriving center for recreation and community service.

The McCormick Foundation has supported Thresholds for more than 40 years, playing an important role in helping the agency expand its services to different populations living with mental illness. This year the foundation extended its support to the Thresholds Westside Narcotics Diversion and Treatment Initiative. This program works with the Chicago Police Department to divert nonviolent drug offenders from incarceration by providing them immediate care. This includes life-saving medication-assisted treatment, psychiatry, treatment planning, and other services. The McCormick Foundation’s support is enabling the initiative to reach more clients and become sustainable.

We are deeply grateful for The McCormick Foundation’s enduring support of Thresholds and for believing in the work we do!

Governor Rauner Signs Early Mental Health and Addictions Treatment Act

Thresholds championed bill that provides early interventions for young people that prevent lifetime of disability and illness

Chicago, IL – Today Governor Rauner signed the bi-partisan Early Mental Health and Addictions Treatment Act into law.  Illinois will be the first state in the country to cover early treatment models through its Medicaid program if the federal government approves coverage. This early treatment is tailored for young people who have early signs of a serious mental health condition such as bi-polar disorder, severe depression or anxiety. Thresholds, in partnership with the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition, led the charge with a group of legislative leaders to address a glaring gap in Illinois’ continuum of care for mental health and substance use conditions.

Early treatment can prevent costly institutional care for individuals with mental health and substance use conditions – particularly use of jails as mental health treatment centers. Mental health community treatment costs a fraction of treatment in jail (74% less) or hospitalization (95% less).

Illinois, and the nation, are grappling with a long-standing mental health crisis.  People of all ages who have treatable mental health conditions go without treatment for years due to stigma or a lack of access to the right treatment. This all too often leads to debilitating symptoms, high suicide rates, and substance use for self-medication. This legislation will stop that trajectory for thousands across our state and enable early treatment aimed specifically for adolescents and young adults so they can be well and thrive in life.

“We know through research and practice that early intervention is key to reducing lifelong impact of serious mental health challenges.  In Illinois, these mental health challenges often have to worsen to the point of disability before comprehensive, targeted treatment is covered.  This bill takes the important first steps to address that gap,” says Marc Fagan, PsyD, Vice President of Clinical Operations & Youth Services at Thresholds.

The legislation also takes steps to address the state’s raging overdose epidemic by allowing substance use treatment to be delivered in a person’s home or other setting, instead of solely in a community clinic. This approach has shown success in helping individuals cope with everyday life triggers that have led to the substance use, but until now, this type of treatment has not been covered through the state’s Medicaid program.

“Outreach models are incredibly effective for mental health conditions, and evidence shows us that this treatment model can be just as useful for individuals struggling with substance use,” says Gabriela Zapata-Alma, Program Director of Substance Use Treatment at Thresholds. “For many, delivering care in a real-life setting outside of a clinic or institution can be the key to recovery.”

We want to thank Sen. Melinda Bush, Sen. Dale Righter, and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz for championing this legislation, all the members of the Illinois General Assembly who voted for it, and Governor Rauner for making Illinois a national leader in early mental health and substance use treatment. To learn more about Thresholds and the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives coalition, visit our website.

Media Contact: Emily Moen, VP Public Relations & Marketing, 715-308-1951

Donor Spotlight: Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township

Donor Spotlight: Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township

Thresholds is pleased to feature the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township (CMHB) in this month’s Donor Spotlight. Started by the Oak Park Township following a referendum in 1973, the CMHB is comprised of nine Oak Park residents, committed to facilitating a wide range of mental health services for residents of Oak Park, including planning, coordinating, funding, and evaluating services.

For over 10 years, the CMHB has been an extraordinary partner to Thresholds in assisting persons living with chronic mental illnesses in achieving and maintaining recovery. The CMHB fills a critical need by providing funding for uninsured individuals with serious mental illnesses living in Oak Park. With this funding, Thresholds is able to provide these individuals with community support, clinical interventions, and case management services that they would otherwise not have access to.

Additionally, the CMHB has provided funding for infrastructure improvements for Thresholds’ residential building for Oak Park clients with mental illnesses. This has made it possible for Thresholds to purchase items such as computers, clothing, and furnishings to further enhance the lives of these clients.

Affordable Care Act Could Again Be in Jeopardy – What You Need to Know

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) changed the landscape of healthcare for people living with mental health, substance use and other health conditions – establishing unprecedented consumer protections, expanding the types of care covered, and extending health coverage to more Americans than ever before. These advances paved the way for improved access to treatment and that is something worth fighting for.

Efforts to diminish access to healthcare and repeal the ACA by Congress and the Trump Administration have again been renewed. We must remain vigilant! These new threats include:

  • Continued attempts to eliminate the protection of coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions;
  • Allowing the sale of junk insurance plans that fall far short of covering basic health services; and
  • A new ACA repeal plan being pushed in Congress.

Despite these attacks, Illinois advocates made important strides in the first half of the year:

  • Passage of state consumer protection legislation for short-term health insurance plans;
  • Illinois’ Attorney General joined several states in an important lawsuit to protect the gains made through the ACA; and
  • Introduction of legislation in Illinois to prevent future attempts to cut Medicaid.

These are important steps forward but our work is not done. As our fight continues, we will be calling on you to take action when our advocacy is needed.

Thank you for continuing to raise your voice!


Heather O’Donnell, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy, is Thresholds’ resident policy expert and one of the primary architects behind the Road Map to Mental Health Reform. She is an attorney by trade and has a wealth of experience in health care and non-profit advocacy.

Illinois Approves Bi-Partisan Budget Preserving Funding for Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment

CHICAGO – Today, Thresholds applauds Governor Rauner and members of the General Assembly for prioritizing the best interests of Illinoisans by coming together to agree on a timely, bi-partisan state budget that preserves critical funding for mental health and substance use treatment and supportive housing.

The budget contains some big wins for mental health and substance use treatment, including:

  • Preservation of a 3% mental health Medicaid rate increase, helping to stabilize funding for community-based treatment
  • Extension of the psychiatric Medicaid rate add-on payments, preventing a $27M cut to mental health services
  • Increase in substance use prevention and treatment grants
  • Maintained funding for supportive housing

“We are pleased that elected officials in Springfield heeded our calls to maintain funding for treatment and took action to preserve vital investments and avoid devastating cuts. For decades, Illinois has struggled with an often overlooked mental health crisis and now many of our communities are being hit with the deadly opioid epidemic. Now is the time to invest in what works – treatment that saves lives and helps people get healthy,” says Heather O’Donnell, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy at Thresholds.

The fiscal year 2019 budget is a welcome sign of a renewed bi-partisan commitment to addressing gaps in access to treatment. We commend the Governor and General Assembly for taking a step in the right direction by working across party lines to invest in the healthcare and human services that make our communities stronger in this year’s budget.

Media Contact: Emily Moen

Thresholds Successful in Clinical Trial Comparing Mobile Health and Traditional Mental Healthcare

Thresholds’ Research Department was instrumental in the execution of a randomized controlled mental health trial comparing mobile health (mHealth) treatment (FOCUS) to the traditional clinic-based approach (WRAP), in a first-of-its-kind study implemented with academic partners. The research project also included support from Thresholds clinical operations at the Peer Success and New Freedom Center programs, as well as trained WRAP facilitators within the Thresholds workforce. The results, recently published in the scientific journal, Psychiatric Services, showed that mobile health options are equally effective and offer convenience and increased access to live-saving treatment.

FOCUS is a phone app that allows individuals to participate in daily assessments and exclusive, 24-hour content, such as video and audio clips. It also allows individuals the option to receive support from an mHealth specialist. WRAP is a form of group therapy treatment led by a trained person with lived experience of mental illnesses, emphasizing self-management and wellness training.

The study, led by PI Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev, included a group of 163 individuals with a history of serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder, who were asked to participate in one of the two methods of intervention over a 12-week period. Assessments were completed before the trial, immediately following the trial, and six months post-intervention.

All participants showed improvements in their overall mental health. The WRAP group showed significant advancement in recovery in their post-intervention assessments, while the FOCUS users reported improvements in both recovery and quality of life.  One differential finding was the rate of activity and participation, which was significantly higher in the FOCUS group (90%) than the WRAP group (58%) through the first eight weeks of the trial.

“We are very excited about the results of this study. Findings support significant improvements in key areas related to members’ recovery using two unique intervention strategies,” said Thresholds Research Director, Dr. Lisa Razzano. “It also demonstrates the benefits of our clinical investment in evidence-informed practices and advances science.”

In keeping up with the modernization of healthcare in the 21st century, mobile health options are becoming increasingly popular and accessible. We hope the ease and convenience of using a smartphone to receive treatment services at any and all times will help to destigmatize mental health, and reach more individuals. Accessibility to technology is critical, since it advances healthcare and wellness overall.

Thresholds is so proud to have been part of this groundbreaking study. We are looking forward to the future of mental healthcare!

Lawmakers Pass Bill Positioning Illinois as a Leader in Innovative Early Treatment for Mental Health and Substance Use

Lawmakers Pass Bill Positioning Illinois as a Leader in Innovative Early Treatment for Mental Health and Substance Use

On strongly bi-partisan votes, the Illinois House and Senate have approved SB2951 – a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will make Illinois one of the first states in the country to create a treatment model specifically designed for youth and young adults experiencing their first symptoms of significant mental health conditions. SB2951 also allows for the delivery of clinical substance use treatment in community-based settings.

This legislation brings Illinois’ treatment system in line with a growing body of research that demonstrates the importance of treating the whole person with a comprehensive set of wrap-around services and meeting a person where they are by delivering treatment in the home or out in the community.

As Illinois works to combat the deadly opioid epidemic and a long-standing mental health crisis, the passage of this legislation represents a sea change. With limited coverage for early treatment, for far too long people struggling with mental health and substance use conditions have had few options for getting the care they need to live well and get back on track.

The right treatment at the right time can make a lifetime of difference.

Accessing a package of treatment services tailored to meet the needs of a person first experiencing a serious mental health condition or substance use condition can mean the difference between a longer, healthier life and a devastating and preventable spiral of repeat hospitalizations, homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and disability.

The treatment models included in the bill compliment the exciting new mental health and substance use pilot projects outlined in Illinois’ 1115 Medicaid Waiver, recently approved by the federal government. A proposal to strengthen access to First Episode Psychosis treatment, originally included in Illinois’ Waiver application but ultimately not approved, makes this legislation even more critical by filling these gaps in services.

SB2951 was introduced by Healthy Minds Healthy Lives (HMHL) and sponsored by Senator Melinda Bush (D – Grayslake) and Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D – Chicago) with support from legislative champion Senator Dale Righter (R – Mattoon). HMHL is a statewide advocacy coalition comprised of a diverse cross-section of stakeholders including people with lived experience, family support organizations, trade associations, policy experts, and treatment providers including Thresholds.

SB2951 now goes to the Governor for consideration.  


For more on the SB2951, please see the bill fact sheet.

For more on the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition, visit their webpage.

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.