We are encouraged by the Trump Administration’s announcement yesterday on the creation of the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis aimed at addressing the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. In 2015, opioid overdoses claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Americans. We must tackle this epidemic with a full commitment to evidence-supported treatment.
However, the Administration’s plan to gut Medicaid (the primary payer in the U.S. for substance use and mental health treatment) by $880 billion over the next ten years, along with its proposal to cut $5.8 billion from the National Institute of Health (the federal agency charged with research on new treatment approaches), hardly squares with a commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic. An estimated 24 million Americans would lose healthcare coverage (and access to substance use treatment) under the Administration’s recent push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
We urge the Commission to build upon the bipartisan support for the 21st Century Cures Act which was signed into law last year to strengthen research on innovative and evidence-based therapies and treatments. We also invite the Commission to work from the Surgeon General’s most recent report, which explores in detail substance use and addiction in America and what can be done in policy and practice to address it. And lastly, we call upon the Administration to appoint a director to lead the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, a critical partner to the Commission as it embarks on its charge.
While we are encouraged by the President’s willingness to establish a commission dedicated to addressing the opioid epidemic, in order to make a real difference the Administration must also demonstrate its commitment to access to health coverage and evidence-supported treatment for the millions of people across our country living with an opioid addiction.
Donor Spotlight – Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute
Thresholds is excited to feature the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute in this month’s Donor Spotlight. The Sprague Institute, established in 1911, is committed to investigating the cause of disease and pursuing the prevention and relief of human suffering throughout Chicago. Among their many early achievements, medical researchers from the Sprague Institute were involved with early trials of insulin, treatments for schizophrenia, and discovering the cause of scarlet fever.
More recently, the foundation has helped launch city-wide health initiatives like The Chicago Asthma Consortium, the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), and Healthy Chicago 2.0.
In addition to remaining at the forefront of medical research, the Sprague Institute is committed to supporting social services throughout the City of Chicago.
Thresholds is grateful to the Sprague Institute Board for their generous grant that will help implement an agency-wide call service center. Currently, individuals seeking to reach Thresholds have hundreds of phone numbers to choose from, representing our many sites, programs, and staff members. This new call center will be the single point of entry for all inquiries related to clinical, business, or operational services. Set to launch in October 2017, this updated, state-of-the-art call service center will improve our ability to meet the needs and requests of our diverse stakeholders more efficiently and effectively—enhancing service delivery to our more than 15,000 clients.
Thanks to the Sprague Institute’s generosity, Thresholds has the resources needed for this transformative improvement. We could not do this work without the support of funders like the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute!
Chicago, IL – Thresholds has stated that we oppose any national healthcare legislation that reduces the number of insured individuals or reduces Medicaid funding and benefits. More than 5,000 of our 15,000 clients gained coverage through Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), all of whom are living with serious mental illnesses and complex medical needs.
Yesterday, many of our fears about the repeal of the ACA were confirmed. According to the analysis produced by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), non-partisan governmental units, if the House Republicans’ plan (American Health Care Act, or AHCA) is passed an estimated 24 million Americans will lose health coverage by 2026. This will push the total number of uninsured Americans to 52 million. In the first year alone, 14 million Americans will lose coverage. The analysis from the CBO and JCT makes it clear that the biggest losers under the AHCA are older, sicker, and poorer Americans.
The analysis also shows a major federal disinvestment in Medicaid, the largest payer for mental health and substance use treatment, totaling $880 billion in cuts over a 10-year period. Federal cuts of this magnitude would result in hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans losing access to treatment and healthcare. Illinois would be hamstrung in its ability to address the opioid epidemic and undertake significant mental health reforms.
This is unacceptable. The proposed repeal of the ACA will be devastating to Illinois.
Last week House Republicans pushed a package of bills through Congressional committees in spite of the CBO and JCT not yet having completed their analysis. The premature passage of these bills out of committee puts us one step closer to the loss of health care coverage for millions living with mental health and substance use conditions.
Before the ACA, far too many living with mental health and substance use conditions were unable to access treatment until their illness had become debilitating. We can’t go back. Our elected officials must do better.
Mental health and substance use conditions are treatable and recovery is possible. Significant progress toward expanding access to treatment was made under the ACA. Now is not the time to pull the rug out from under those who are working to reclaim their lives.
As it stands, the AHCA is fundamentally flawed. We join advocates, providers, and those with lived experience across the country in calling upon the President and Congress to uphold their commitments to ensuring that all Americans have affordable coverage and access to the care they need.
To stay up to date on this and other public policy matters, please sign up for our mailing list. You can share your ACA story and get involved with our statewide coalition ProtectOurCareIL for additional updates and information on protecting health coverage and Medicaid.
MEDIA CONTACT – Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172
Thresholds Joins Statewide Coalition Calling on Elected Officials to “Protect Our Care” and Stand Against Healthcare Repeal and Medicaid Caps
CHICAGO, IL – Today, Thresholds is pleased to be among the more than 50 organizations launching Protect Our Care Illinois, a statewide coalition of healthcare providers and advocates dedicated to preserving healthcare coverage and preventing caps to Medicaid. Protect Our Care Illinois is calling on our members of Congress to ensure that all Illinoisans have access to the care they need.
Earlier this year Congress took initial steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. As one of Illinois’ largest and longest serving community-based mental health and substance use treatment providers, Thresholds recognizes what an historic step forward the ACA has been for those living with mental health and substance use conditions. The landmark legislation did not simply expand healthcare coverage – it also established critical protections that ensure coverage for life-saving mental health and substance use treatment.
The repeal and replacement plan released by House Republican leadership last week not only jeopardizes the healthcare coverage of some 1.2 million Illinoisans newly insured under the ACA, including an estimated 348,000 living with mental health and substance use conditions, it also rolls back the clock on countless other critical protections. Among the protections at stake for those living with mental health and substance use conditions if Congressional Republicans continue to pursue repeal:
- Coverage for low-income individuals through Medicaid
- Prohibition on the denial of coverage because of a pre-existing condition
- Elimination of lifetime and annual limits
- Mandatory coverage of treatment by all insurance plans
Protect Our Care Illinois coalition members urge Illinois’ Representatives in Congress to publicly oppose a repeal of the ACA and any Medicaid block grant or per capita cap proposal. Both would disrupt access to care for millions and cause a devastating ripple effect throughout the healthcare system. Either block grants or per capita caps will result in federal spending cuts to Medicaid, limiting access to care and leaving Illinois unprepared to address the heroin and opioid epidemic as well as the unmet need for mental health treatment.
Illinoisans deserve better.
Thresholds is a lead organization for the Protect Our Care Illinois coalition along with: Access Living, ACLU of Illinois, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, EverThrive Illinois, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Heartland Alliance, Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Legal Council for Health Justice, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
For more information on the coalition, visit www.protectourcareil.org and follow the conversation on Twitter (@ProtectILCare) and Facebook (@ProtectOurCareIL). Use the hashtag #ProtectOurCareIL to join in the discussion.
Press Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172
Chicago, IL – The annual budget address serves as an opportunity for the governor to present his financial plan for our state for the year ahead. Today, Governor Rauner gave his third budget address since taking office in 2015. While we too are encouraged by the Senate coming together on a bipartisan basis to build cooperation and achieve a balanced budget, unfortunately, much uncertainty remains.
For nearly two years, Illinois has not had a complete budget. As a result, Thresholds, like dozens of other healthcare and human service providers, has been forced to tap into reserves, extend lines of credit, and lay off staff in an effort to stay afloat and preserve access to life-saving treatment.
This is unacceptable. No other state in the nation operates in such an unsustainable fashion. Illinois deserves better.
With each passing day, our state’s fiscal stability becomes increasingly more tenuous and providers’ ability to deliver care, housing, and so many other critical services becomes more at risk. The budget crisis cannot be allowed to continue. The livelihood of too many hangs in the balance.
Not only do we as healthcare and human service providers ensure that Illinoisans get what they need to live their best lives, but we generate an estimated $4.5 billion in spending annually and employ tens of thousands in communities across the state. Of 429 social services agencies surveyed statewide by the United Way last summer, 45% of respondents have been forced to lay off staff, up from 24% in January 2016. This trend will continue until a fully-funded budget is passed and providers are paid on time and in full. Until then, our state will continue to lose vital jobs in an industry that employs thousands of Illinoisans who work to support the elderly, the disabled, and those living with mental health and substance use conditions, among others.
The budget crisis must end. We join countless others from Chicago to Carbondale and from Macomb to Urbana imploring the Governor and members of the General Assembly to act responsibly and in the best interest of those they represent by passing a full budget along with the revenue necessary to support vital public investments, today and in the years to come.
During this incredibly difficult time, the leadership of the Governor and state legislature is needed now more than ever. We agree that the Governor and state lawmakers “have a moral obligation to work together to bring change… [and] return Illinois to hope, opportunity, and prosperity,” as the Governor said today. The future of the state rests in their hands and we are all counting on them to do what is needed to right the course.
MEDIA CONTACT: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172
Chicago, IL – Yesterday, Governor Rauner delivered his State of the State address, closing his remarks by speaking to the need for bipartisanship in order to return hope, opportunity, and prosperity to Illinois. We echo this call for collaboration and reiterate our plea for the Governor and state policymakers to work together to end the budget stalemate, and to chart a path forward for our state.
We applaud the Governor and state agencies for their leadership on taking steps to reform Illinois’ behavioral health system. But there is so much work to do – we must pave the way for innovation and future cost savings by addressing mental health conditions before they become debilitating. System-wide changes to strengthen and improve mental health and substance use treatment are welcomed and long overdue. We look forward to working with the Governor, state agencies, and lawmakers to expand the availability of evidence-backed, life-saving treatment.
As one of Illinois’ largest and longest standing community-based mental health providers, we must call attention to the reality that the budget crisis stands squarely in the way of realizing these reforms and jeopardizes access to treatment for the hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans.
This is an urgent matter.
For more than 18 months, Illinois has gone without a complete budget. A failure to agree upon and enact a fully-funded, balanced budget has left Thresholds and our fellow human service and healthcare providers across the state with delayed payments, millions in unpaid invoices, and a mountain of uncertainty. In the absence of timely and adequate funding from the state, we as providers struggle to continue delivering critical care that enables those with mental health and substance use conditions in communities across our state to achieve independence and reclaim their lives. Lives are at stake, and hundreds of jobs across sectors throughout Illinois are being lost to the budget impasse.
A budget resolution is imperative. It is incumbent upon the Governor and state legislators to do what is in the best interest of Illinoisans, and do so quickly. Anything less would be irresponsible and negligent. The future of our state hangs in the balance and continued inaction poses a direct threat to access to life-changing treatment and recovery. We are encouraged by recent movement in the Illinois Senate and hope that their work together represents the first step toward reestablishing negotiations and expediting the road to a full budget.
MEDIA CONTACT: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172
Chicago, IL – Recently, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the findings of a 13-month Department of Justice civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The investigation concluded that CPD’s training for use of force and its accountability practices are inadequate and violate the constitutional rights of citizens.
Thresholds clients, like many people who are living with serious mental illnesses, can experience mental health or substance use crises that sometimes involve police, on whom we too often rely to play a role in the mental health system that is best performed by a clinician or social worker. We know that those in crisis do not always receive fair treatment and access to the help they need. We agree that there is urgent need for the CPD to undergo broad reform and implement training that equips officers and dispatchers to better handle these crises. Our clinical staff are always more comfortable when a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer is the responder for the calls we need to make. We have seen time and time again what a difference is made for clients when they get this care. Trauma is reduced, the officers work collaboratively with our team, and the individual is better connected to future treatment. This is the model of CIT – community partnership, advocacy, and training.
We support efforts to create a stand-alone mental health unit within the CPD to support the growth and expansion of CIT training, among other possibilities. We spent the last year participating in the work of the Mayor’s Mental Health Steering committee, and we will continue to support this work to promote foundational change in the way behavioral health concerns are handled.
Thresholds wants to support law enforcement efforts by calling for models that reduce utilization of the police for behavioral health crises while providing them greater tools to perform their duties. To this end, we call on the City to invest in co-responder and post-response efforts that have had success in other major cities like Los Angeles and Denver. These innovative programs partner police with trained mental health responders, allowing both parties to do the jobs they are best trained to do. Co-responder models allow police hours of additional time to do patrol and other police work, save lives, and reduce frequency of the crisis calls. The CPD can also invest in a dedicated Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team to target high-frequency users of police intervention to help stabilize symptoms. ACT is an evidence-based treatment modality designed to serve individuals with the most significant mental health needs. We are dedicated to exploring these models, and we call on the CPD to prioritize them.
But most importantly, we need greater investment in our community treatment safety net. We should not rely on the police to staff our City’s mental health and substance use response. We need the City and state to invest in community treatment services. We need to continue to build connections between providers and law enforcement, hospitals and emergency rooms, and the justice system.
We know what works – we need continued investment and effort from our City government and the CPD to get it done. Thresholds remains ready to keep partnering with them to ensure that everyone gets the mental health and substance use treatment they need and deserve.
Media Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172
Donor Spotlight – Leo S. Guthman Fund
This month, Thresholds proudly features the Leo S. Guthman Fund in our Donor Spotlight. The Leo S. Guthman Fund is committed to improving people’s lives and strengthening communities.
By supporting programs and organizations that empower vulnerable people, improve health, and encourage youth leadership, the Leo S. Guthman Fund helps individuals rise above the challenges they face. Since 2003, the Fund has provided funding to more than 300 organizations, impacting the lives of thousands of people.
One of the programs that the Leo S. Guthman Fund has generously supported is the Thresholds Women Veterans Health Initiative (WVHI). Women veterans are the fastest growing subgroup of veterans and, consequently, the fastest growing segment of veterans facing hardships like PTSD, homelessness, and substance abuse. In 2013, Thresholds launched the Women Veterans Health Initiative (WVHI), as part of our Veterans Project, to meet the unique needs of female service members. Now entering its fourth year, the WVHI delivers a range of services including therapies and peer supports from female staff, many of whom are past or current service members. The WVHI works in tandem with the Veterans Project to provide women veterans with mental illness the full range of housing, health, and support services that are vital to recovery from mental illness.
Thresholds is grateful to the Leo S. Guthman Fund for its generous support of the Women Veterans Health Initiative. Thank you for believing in our work and for believing in the brave women we serve. We could not do this without you!
Congressional leaders have signaled their intentions to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, also known as Obamacare) and fundamentally weaken Medicaid as soon as January 2017. Health coverage for over 1 million Illinoisans is at stake and we need you to speak out for all the progress we have made.
Congress has asked Governor Rauner for input on how they should change the ACA and Medicaid. The Governor has until January 6th to respond, and we must act now to make sure he conveys how important these programs are for our community.
YOUR VOICE MATTERS
Call Governor Rauner at 312-814-2121(Chicago) OR 217-782-0244 (Springfield) TODAY and let him know what health care means to you and your community! When you call, use the following script:
Hello, my name is _____ and I am a resident of Illinois. Governor Rauner should tell Congress that Illinois benefits from the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid and refuses to move backward. I urge Governor Rauner to stand strong to protect health care access provided by the ACA and Medicaid.
Here are some additional talking points to use if you need:
Protect Our Care!
It would be a moral outrage to strip people of the lifesaving coverage they have under Obamacarewithout an immediate plan for a replacement that does not cause millions of people to become uninsured. Delaying a replacement would be harmful to Illinoisans and cause chaos to the insurance markets. Here’s more information about what’s at stake in Illinois.
No Medicaid Block Grant or Caps!
Medicaid is vital for Illinois communities. Medicaid keeps kids healthy and allows them to do better in school; it helps seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes instead of institutional care. Medicaid expansion has provided coverage to 650,000 new adults, improving access to a wide range of critical health care, including preventive care, chronic disease management, and mental health and substance use disorder services. Block grants and caps will halt this progress in its tracks by forcing a multi-billion dollar cut in federal support, which is both the aim and the effect of block grants and caps.
We Will Not Go Back to the Pre-ACA Days!
Obamacare and Medicaid expansion protects us from discrimination against pre-existing conditions and financial ruin in a crisis; it provides insurance coverage to those who cannot afford it; it helps us work; it allows us to contribute to our communities and our state; it is critical for raising our families. We will not surrender this progress!
Share Your Story!
Share your story of how Medicaid or other health coverage helped you and your family. Have you been able to afford needed treatment? Gotten back to work? What would happen if you lost your healthcare coverage?
Please act now and make sure our state is on record as supporting health coverage for ALL our communities. For more information about the threats to Medicaid and the ACA, please check out the Keep Illinois Covered webpage and sign up to get involved. We can win this fight, but only with your help!
Donor Spotlight – McHenry County Community Foundation
This month, Thresholds proudly features the McHenry County Community Foundation.
The McHenry County Community Foundation is a trusted community leader that works hard to build a better world in McHenry County. They provides individuals with innovative ways to use their charitable dollars for the good of the community, directing all unrestricted dollars toward local unmet needs.
The McHenry County Community Foundation is an important partner to Thresholds, most recently supporting the agency’s Homeless Outreach Program. This initiative connects individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness to stable housing and the additional support services needed for a successful recovery. The program places particular focus on individuals in McHenry who, because of their mental illness, have been unable to benefit from existing services. Through focused community outreach and partnerships with other service providers in the area, Thresholds identifies and supports individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illnesses, giving them a chance to reclaim their lives and reach their full potential.
Thresholds thanks the McHenry County Community Foundation for its support. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with you in serving the residents of McHenry County.