Take Action to Improve Mental Health Access

a picture of people holding protest signs with the words TAKE ACTION on it

Today is a statewide day of action and we need your help to grow access to mental health services!

Thousands of Illinoisans living with mental health conditions are unable to get the care they need to live well and thrive. The lack of access is tied to inadequate reimbursement rates for services. Current rates fail to cover the cost of care, preventing providers from being able to grow capacity and expand access to treatment.

Call your Illinois state representative and senator today!

  • Talking point: “Please include in the budget the phased-in rate increases to community mental health reimbursement rates, as outlined in HB2486 and SB1673!”

How to make your voice heard:

  1. Click here to enter your address.
  2. Click the “Illinois” tab to find your STATE rep and senator.
  3. Call your state rep and senator; and ask them to support including mental health rate increases as outlined in HB2486 and SB1673 as part of the budget.

Mental Health Month – Remere’s Story

(Taken from an interview with Remere, a Thresholds client, by a member of the Thresholds Peer Success Team.)

“Basically I was always moving. I never stayed homeless in one spot. I was just trying to find someplace safe to sleep and lay down.”

Until he was nineteen, Remere spent his time traveling through various neighborhoods of Chicago, unable to build connections with others or hold much of a conversation at all. A severe stutter he developed at age four severely inhibited his ability to verbally communicate. When he need to communicate with others, he wrote it down on whatever scrap of paper he had on him.

One night, in the park he called his home for the time being, he lay down and prayed for a person that would understand and welcome him with kindness and acceptance. The next morning, he met a woman who handed him a sandwich and juice. She sat with him, communicating for hours by pen and paper. That woman was a Thresholds staff member, part of the Peer Success Team.

“She basically said, whatever you’re going through, it’s going to get better. I’m just really glad that somebody just showed me some sort of kindness. Most people don’t look at you for who you really are or what you might become.”

Remere has been with Thresholds ever since that day, and says that he feels as though his life changed dramatically. He was linked up to a speech pathologist through Thresholds and said that within a month he found his voice. After a few months of speech therapy, supported by his team at Thresholds, Remere “came out singing like a bird.”

“They helped me, saved me. I now have people around me that want to see me succeed. I started going [to a speech pathologist]. One of the staff members would take me. You don’t have to go alone. You have people who got your back now. That’s what everybody needs – a little hand.”

Thresholds also helped Remere secure housing. Remere became speechless and tearful when talking about his first apartment.

“That day…that day changed my life.”

He said that Thresholds was with him every day throughout the process, which brought him off the streets and out of homelessness for the first time in his life. He gained independence, strength and confidence with encouragement and guidance from Thresholds.

Remere is now 27 years old, and he is still passing on the good energy and kindness that was shown to him at one of the darkest points in his life. He told us about seeing a homeless man on the train and how deeply that man’s situation resonated within himself.

“I took that energy that [Thresholds] gave me and I basically kept going by helping others.”

Remere sat next to the man and gave the man hope by telling of his recovery. Before getting off at his stop, he gave the man his number and the number to Thresholds stating that he might be able to get help from the organization that gave him so much help and hope. The man called Remere months later. He connected with Thresholds and secured his very own apartment.

“I just heard it in his voice. He was crying on the phone and I started crying too…He was happy. I was able to help a very sick man the way I got help.”

Remere shared the confidence that Thresholds helped instill within him to continue moving forward as he became a father, found a job that he loves and continues to progress each and every day.

“Where I am in my life is all because of Thresholds. I’m thinking about inventions, about ways to progress, I’m just basically more thoughtful and advanced than I’ve ever been before. I’m more open to discuss what I’ve been through and I was merely 21 years old then.”

He ends his story with words of hope:

“I’m talking about whatever your past is, I’m talking about whatever you’re going through, you’re thinking this is the end. This is the way it’s going to be. No. It isn’t. Your past doesn’t determine your future. Only you can. If you ask for positive people, if you ask for good people to come, it’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

Mental Health Month – David’s Story

As I prepare to leave Thresholds after 24 years, I feel a great sense of gratitude for the Thresholds community. Through our work, we have built something amazing that benefits not only the Thresholds clients who use our services, but the community as a whole.

I have been supported, challenged, pressed to the limit and now launched into a new stage of life by my time at Thresholds. I am deeply appreciative of each client, colleague, leader, donor, and advocate that made these opportunities possible for me.

A few memories of my work here:

I recall Danny having the time of his life on his first camping trip with Thresholds. Danny was a blind man with a mental health challenge who was not just going camping for the first time, but even going horseback riding!

Larry, upon learning that I was leaving Thresholds, said, “You came all this way to see me! Ah, give me a hug!” This outburst of emotion came from a military veteran, who had spent time in the justice system, and had been frequently homeless. It was a pleasant, unexpected moment that I won’t soon forget.

Terri challenged my perceptions and beliefs as a trained professional. I served as his staff mentor and coach, but he taught me as much or more about being authentic and truly helpful.

Joy met me for the first time in an unfurnished, frigidly cold basement in Englewood. Her home had few possessions, but an abundance of hope. Joy showed me how a person can rise from the depths of depression and substance use disorder, and that nobody is truly “lost”.

Barry would frequently reminisce about the time the two of us had struggled to bring his refrigerator upstairs and how deeply grateful he was for this help. For Barry, who grappled intensely with loss and extreme mood fluctuations, the ability to build trust and bond with another person was a miracle.

As we completed our last session, Alice said to me, “Thank you. You saw me and had hope for me when I did not.” She spent the remainder of the session telling me about her current learnings of mindfulness, awareness, and how to manage symptoms of her mental illness.

These are just a few of the countless times that I have been deeply touched by the community that is Thresholds. I express immense appreciation for all the people who have and will continue to support us in these efforts of mutual growth and healing.

Note: All names besides David’s have been changed.

A headshot of a man in a red shirt and glasses smiling at the camera.

David Pock is a former Thresholds Managed Care Coordinator with over a quarter of a century’s experience working with people living with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.



New State Leadership Means New Opportunities
Governor Pritzker and the new General Assembly have taken office; and with a new leadership comes new opportunities. We are encouraged by the collaboration between the Governor and the General Assembly; and we look forward to working with both branches to strengthen public investment and improve policy to ensure that mental health and substance use treatment is accessible to all.

Last week, during the Governor’s first budget address, he emphasized implementing a “fair tax” – a graduated income tax structure – as the centerpiece of his proposal to grow the additional revenue needed to cope with Illinois’ structural deficit and put the state on the path to fiscal stability. This was welcome news following the budget stalemate and years of spending cuts that have devastated access to mental health and substance use treatment and Illinois’ social service sector more broadly. New and sustainable revenue is critical to paying down the backlog of bills, stabilizing public pensions, and investing in the vital public services Illinoisans need to live healthy and thrive.

Strengthening Illinois’ Children’s Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment System
In spite of previous efforts to increase state investment in mental health and substance use treatment, significant gaps in services persist – making needed care difficult, and sometimes impossible, to access. This year, the Healthy Minds Healthy Lives Coalition has introduced the Children and Young Adult Mental Health Crisis Act (HB2572/SB1633), comprehensive children’s mental health legislation addressing major barriers to accessing preventative care and early treatment regardless of the type of health coverage a family has.

Growing Access to Treatment through Increased State Investment
For decades, the availability of mental health services has fallen far short of the need. This lack of treatment capacity is due in large part to insufficient Medicaid reimbursement rates, which fail to cover the cost of providing care and hamper providers’ ability to grow access to services. We are excited to work in coalition with providers and advocates across our state to pass the Mental Health Modernization and Access Improvement Act (HB2486/SB1673), a legislative initiative aimed at addressing the systemic barriers to expanding access to care.


The Future of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid
Following the midterm election, Democrats won control of the House of Representatives while Republicans retain the majority in the Senate. This divide in power is likely to put to rest Congressional attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid. Nonetheless, administrative actions from the federal government continue to undermine health coverage. Advocates must remain vigilant and continue to oppose any policies that reduce access to the comprehensive care necessary for leading a healthy, prosperous life.

Governor Pritzker Pledges to Reform Illinois’ Tax Structure to Fund Needed Increases in State Investment in Vital Public Services

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Yesterday, Governor Pritzker delivered his first budget address since taking office, offering his vision for returning Illinois to fiscal stability and paving the way for a more prosperous future for all Illinoisans.

While the state continues to struggle with serious fiscal constraints, we commend the Governor for acknowledging that Illinois has a mental health crisis and his proposal to modestly increase funding for mental health and substance use treatment services despite limited revenue. Specifically, the Governor’s plan calls for:

  • Expanding First Episode Psychosis treatment
  • Increasing funding for combating the opioid epidemic and improving access to Medication Assisted Treatment
  • Increasing funding for treatment for youth in the child welfare system
  • Improving integration between behavioral and physical health
  • Increasing resources for deinstitutionalization under existing consent decrees

The centerpiece of the Governor’s budget plan includes addressing Illinois’ long-standing fiscal challenges by implementing a “Fair Tax,” which is a progressive income tax structure that taxes those with higher incomes at a higher rate, and those with lower incomes at a lower rate, similar to the federal income tax structure. This will generate needed additional revenue and put the state on sound fiscal footing. A progressive income tax would be part of a broader package of revenue measures aimed at paying down the state’s backlog of bills, stabilizing the pension system, and investing in critical public services. Addressing the state’s structural deficit alone would be a major step forward for Illinois and we commend the Governor for tackling this financially crippling problem.

We are hopeful that as the state gains fiscal stability, this will be the beginning of a significant increased investment in mental health and substance use treatment over the next four years. Following years of spending reductions and a devastating budget stalemate, Illinois is in desperate need of stability and improved investment in healthcare, human services, and housing to enable communities across our state to thrive. “Illinois is facing a mental health crisis and a lethal opioid epidemic. The need for increased access to community-based treatment and affordable housing has reached a fever pitch; and state government has an important role to play in leading the way to address these needs,” says CEO Mark Ishaug.

We applaud the collaboration between the Pritzker Administration and the General Assembly and hope that this partnership will lead to meaningful increases in resources to enable providers to grow access to services. As the budget process moves forward, we are excited about the opportunity to work with both the Governor and lawmakers to support the sustainable revenue necessary for strengthening investment in public services and growing access to the mental health and substance use treatment that keeps Illinoisans strong and healthy.

Donor Spotlight: The Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute

A black and white headshot of Otho S.A. Sprague

This month, Thresholds is proud to feature the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute in its Donor Spotlight. Incorporated in 1910, the foundation initially supported biomedical research, shifting its focus in later years on initiatives to improve healthcare in communities. The foundation’s support has included The Chicago Health Atlas and collaborative programs in asthma, obesity, oral health, and patient safety. Telehealth, substance abuse, and behavioral health are among the Foundation’s newer initiatives. The Institute’s endowment is $39 million with annual distributions of $1.9 million.

This year, the foundation supported Thresholds Substance Use Treatment programming on Chicago’s West Side, an area disproportionately impacted by the overdose epidemic in Chicago. Through their support, Thresholds will pilot a truly innovative model of care that integrates substance use and mental health programming by applying a community outreach team approach for substance use disorders, and will employ people in long-term recovery as community support workers. This project is continuing Thresholds’ tradition of leading the way in cutting edge responses to increase home, health, and hope for some of our most marginalized community members.

Thresholds is honored to be a grant recipient of the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute! In the past, the foundation has supported the Thresholds Call Center and we are grateful to once again have its support as we begin this innovative program for substance use treatment!

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug Named to Daniel Burnham Fellowship group by Leadership Greater Chicago

Mark Ishaug standing in front of several pieces of artwork.

Congratulations to Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug, named a participant of the inaugural class of the Daniel Burnham Fellowship – a civic engagement experience by Leadership Greater Chicago. This fellowship is for senior executives in Chicago who want to gain deeper understanding and knowledge of the city, its networks, and business community. These leaders will use their combined influence and intellect to positively impact the city of Chicago.

A group of 19 senior leaders from diverse backgrounds and a wide range of industries will join Ishaug and come together on Thursday, February 7th to begin this five-session series. Through urban planning, strategic partnership and collaboration, and innovative problem-solving, this group will be a driving force behind changes needed most in Chicago.

Leadership Greater Chicago is the region’s premier convener, connector and mobilizer of bold leaders, building capacity across the private, nonprofit and public sectors to effect transformative civic impact in Greater Chicago.​

2019 Daniel Burnham Fellows:

Rod Adams – US/Mexico Talent Acquisition Leader, PwC

Pat Barrett – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, First Midwest Bancorp Inc.

Joe Dominguez – Chief Executive Officer, ComEd

Michael Ericson – Executive Vice President, Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago

Sean Garrett – President and Chief Executive Officer, United Way of Metro Chicago

Kate Gebo – Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations, United Airlines

Evan Hochberg – President, Crown Family Philanthropies

Mark Ishaug, M.A. – Chief Executive Officer, Thresholds

John Latessa, Jr. – President, Midwest Division, CBRE, Inc.

Sandra Cordova Micek – President and Chief Executive Officer, WTTW | WFMT

Eileen Mitchell – President Illinois, AT&T

Allyson Park – Global Vice President, Mars Wrigley Confectionery

Matt Primack – President, Advocate Christ Medical Center

Jacqui Robertson – Global Head of Talent, Diversity & Inclusion, William Blair

Jayne Rosefield – Partner, Office Head, Brunswick Group

Megan Ross, Ph.D. – Zoo Director, Lincoln Park Zoo

Amiee Thomas – Senior Vice President, Store Operations, Ulta Beauty

Maggie Westdale – Business Chief Financial Officer, Aon

Betsy Ziegler – Chief Executive Officer, 1871

Illinois Inaugurates JB Pritzker as New Governor

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Thresholds congratulates Governor JB Pritzker on being sworn into Illinois’ highest office yesterday in Springfield. We are excited about the tone of bipartisanship and optimism he is setting as he begins his term. Notably, during his campaign, Pritzker made mental health and substance use special areas of focus – an encouraging sign he is committed to prioritizing these issues.

Another central issue of Pritzker’s campaign was establishing a fairer income tax structure for all Illinoisans that also will generate increased state revenue to support critical public services. As new leaders take office, we encourage the Governor and the General Assembly to work together to secure new and sustainable revenue. This revenue is necessary to strengthen Illinois’ challenged health, human services, and housing systems.

We are hopeful that this change in leadership marks a new chapter for Illinois. We look forward to the opportunity to serve as a resource and a partner in building a better, brighter, and more prosperous future for all Illinoisans.

The Governor’s inauguration follows that of the members of the state legislature who were sworn into office last week. The full text of the Governor’s inaugural speech is available here.

Donor Spotlight: The Chicago Community Trust

Chicago Community Trust LogoThe Chicago Community Trust partners with donors to support nonprofit organizations in bringing transformative impact to communities across Cook County. For over 100 years, the Trust has partnered with businesses, local governments, and organizations to promote causes that target structural inequalities, and drive equity and opportunity in the Chicago area.


Over the years, The Chicago Community Trust’s giving to Thresholds has ranged from general operations, to funding specific efforts such as arrest deflection, supported employment, and dental care. This year, the Trust donated to the Thresholds Westside Narcotics Diversion and Treatment Initiative through a $20,000 Unity Fund grant. This program works with the Chicago Police Department to divert nonviolent drug offenders from incarceration by providing them immediate care. Along with the McCormick Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust has made it possible for Thresholds to provide life-saving medication assisted treatment, psychiatry, treatment planning, and discharge assessments for clients.

We are excited to highlight The Chicago Community Trust in this month’s Donor Spotlight! For over 30 years, the Trust has generously and consistently given to Thresholds, enabling the agency to continue supporting those living with serious mental illnesses. We are grateful for the Trust’s belief in our work and in those we support.

Thresholds Statement on ACA Court Ruling

District Court Decision on ACA Jeopardizes Access to Treatment for Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Living with Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions

CHICAGO – Last Friday a federal district court judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional based on changes associated with the new tax law Congress passed last year. While this ruling does not have an immediate impact on the ACA or Medicaid – both remain the law of the land – the judge’s decision, which will continue to make its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, reinforces the need to continue strong advocacy to protect the ACA and access to healthcare.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously upheld the ACA in 2012 and again in 2015.

Today, more than 20 million Americans have healthcare coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, including millions with pre-existing conditions like mental health and substance use conditions.

Ensuring access to treatment is more important now than ever. Annual overdose deaths and suicides in Illinois each now outpace homicides. Illinois’ suicide rate increased 23% between 1999 and 2016 and is the 3rd leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 34. And between 2013 and 2016, opioid overdose deaths in Illinois increased 82 percent.

The ACA not only paved the way for reducing the nation’s uninsured rate to an all-time low, but also raised the bar for important consumer safeguards. Under the law, health plans must provide protections for those living with pre-existing conditions as well as a basic package of essential health benefits that includes mental health and substance use treatment.

“All people deserve access to affordable healthcare so they can live full and meaningful lives. We cannot afford to roll back the clock on health coverage and access to treatment – far too many lives are at stake,” states Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds. As this lower court decision makes its way through the system, we will continue the fight to preserve the ACA and Medicaid as we renew our call for elected officials to come together to strengthen the affordability and accessibility of healthcare – including mental health and substance use treatment – for all.

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