Thresholds Statement on Continuing Illinois Budget Impasse – Human Services Are At At Risk

Devastating and Unacceptable

Springfield_Illinois_Capitol_AmtrakChicago, IL
– Tuesday was the last day of Illinois’ regularly scheduled legislative session. We are deeply disappointed that the General Assembly and the Governor have failed to come to a budget solution backed by adequate revenue for the second year in a row. The ongoing budget impasse has already had devastating consequences for our most vulnerable citizens, and they will only grow as the human services sector in our state continues to operate with inadequate resources and uncertain state contracts.

Having no budget in Illinois leaves mental health providers and thousands of other healthcare and human service providers across Illinois without the certainty and stability needed to provide the care our clients need to remain well. We are performing services every day under contracts that are not being honored, without knowing when or if we will be paid. Our clients suffer, our staffs are stressed and nervous, and a sector that represents a large portion of Illinois’ economy and jobs is under threat.

Without a budget, people living with serious mental illnesses are losing services that enable them to manage their illness and stay out of hospitals and other expensive settings that cost taxpayers far more than treatment.  In addition, the budget impasse has caused hundreds of providers across the state to make significant layoffs due to a lack of payment by the state for services delivered. The 169,000 human services workers in Illinois represent 3.5% of the state’s workforce and are a significant economic driver. The budget impasse is costing our state money, jobs, and economic growth.

We know from previous studies that when mental health treatment services are cut, preventable psychiatric hospitalizations skyrocket. Following over $113M in cuts between 2009 and 2011, psychiatric hospitalizations spiked by 19% and cost the state $131M, more than the cuts themselves.

Many in our sector will not survive without a fully funded budget in place soon. The Governor and the General Assembly must work together to reach a budget agreement for FY16 and FY17 by the end of June that fully funds mental health and other healthcare and human services with sufficient revenue to support these investments. Without immediate action, irreparable harm will be done to an already devastated sector of the Illinois healthcare landscape, leaving thousands of people without life-saving treatment. This is an outcome that Illinois simply cannot afford.


Press Contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172

This Memorial Day, We Salute Veterans’ Sacrifices

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This Memorial Day, we salute all of the veterans who have dedicated and sacrificed their lives for a greater purpose. The women and men who serve are all heroes.

Heroes like Vance.

Vance - Thresholds Member and Veteran

A veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, Vance enjoyed serving his country. After sustaining a disabling injury in his community, he found himself in and out of housing. He finally ended up in a nursing home starting in 2008, struggling with both mental and physical illnesses.

Then Vance was connected with the Thresholds Veterans Project in December 2014. He worked closely with the treatment team, first addressing his mental illness so he would be healthy enough to then tackle his physical challenges more effectively. He was eventually able to leave the nursing home and find and keep his own apartment in the community. Vince is now actively engaged with the Thresholds veterans community and says that it helps keep him grounded and well-connected.

Like so many veterans, Vance has set goals for himself and reached them with the right supports. He was recently fitted for a new motorized wheelchair, which will alleviate many of his physical health challenges, and he is looking forward to starting his search for work.

It is people like Vance that remind us of the sacrifices veterans make for the well-being of others every single day. Please join us today in remembering the veterans who have made the greatest sacrifice. They’ve given so much, and they deserve our support.

Learn more about the Thresholds Veterans Project and watch a video about how we support women veterans. Consider a gift to support our heroes and help them get the care they deserve. 


Thresholds Named Best & Brightest Company to Work For

Thresholds Listed Among 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for 2016

Chi Best and BrightestChicago, IL – Thresholds, one of the oldest and largest providers of recovery services for persons with mental illnesses in Illinois, has been named one of Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest places to work in 2016 by the National Association for Business Resources. This award is given to companies that create a happy and healthy work environment for their employees, and is largely based on anonymous employee satisfaction surveys.

With over 1,400 employees, Thresholds has more than 30 programs throughout the city of Chicago, adjacent suburbs, and nine Illinois counties, in more than 100 total locations. Thresholds efficiently utilizes an array of technology and communication methods to create and keep a unified company culture. Thresholds works to invest in employees’ health and wellness, and to create a positive working environment amidst the challenging human services work that most employees perform.

“Our staff rocks! They are the most important part of Thresholds and our high-quality mental health services.” says Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts by the Best and Brightest award. Our staff deserve it – every day they are changing and saving the lives of persons living with mental illnesses.”

Thresholds commends and congratulates all recipients of this award, especially their fellow nonprofit organizations operating with strong social missions. On Friday, July 15, 2016, Thresholds will be honored alongside fellow award winners at a luncheon at the Chicago Marriott Southwest in Burr Ridge, Illinois.

For current, open employment opportunities at Thresholds, please visit our career page.

I love working at Thresholds because we’ll never stop fighting for mental health.

By Sheila O’Neill, Vice President, Primary and Mental Health Care Integration

When I started working at Thresholds in 1983 as a third-shift Job Coach, transporting our clients from 47th and Halsted to stock shelves at the Great Lakes Naval Commissary, I didn’t know that I would still be here almost four decades later. What I did know—almost immediately—was that I landed at a special place. Thresholds was a different kind of mental health agency. We spoke of “Recovery.” Clients created their own goals and collaborated with staff on the best ways to get there. Beyond our housing, employment, case management, and mental health services, Thresholds treated our clients, most of whom are poor, highly symptomatic, homeless, and disconnected from family and friends, as people with gifts and talents to share and deserving of the same compassion and basic rights as everyone else.

I thought it was cool that Thresholds referred to clients as “members” and that our then pony-tailed executive director and founder, Jerry Dincin, thought that we should (and must!) continually improve our services and prove what we were doing works. We now know this pursuit as creating evidence-based practices. I especially remember one day when Jerry, speaking with passion and kindness, thanked the staff for working at Thresholds. He also told the group that if they didn’t like working here, then please don’t. He went on to say that we and the field have such hard work to do to improve the lives of people with serious mental illnesses, that this can only be accomplished with staff who our passionate and committed. I thought, I’m staying, I love my job, and let’s get to work!

More than 30 years later, those evidence-based practices, the ones with validated results that Jerry first spoke about, continue to materialize. In fact, Thresholds took the lead in implementing many of them, and we have taught the field how to do them. These practices include Supported Employment, designed to help clients find jobs of their choosing; Integrated Dual Disorders Treatment, treating mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders simultaneously; and Illness Management and Recovery, which seeks to educate clients on how to manage their symptoms; and many more. We support these standards because because our clients deserved to get better. How could we not?

Thresholds understood the importance of hiring staff (aka peers) with lived experience of mental illnesses. We enlisted a former member as the Director of Recovery, and now we have a culture where many staff and program leaders have a lived experience. And Thresholds is much better as a result of their histories and perspectives.

When we began to learn and see first-hand that Thresholds members were dying 25-30 years earlier than their peers, largely due to manageable physical health issues like diabetes and heart disease, we acted quickly. Thresholds developed partnerships with like-minded primary healthcare providers to integrate both primary and mental health care, often in co-located settings. As a result, doctors, psychiatrists, and support staff speak to each other, clients receive better care, and their health improves. Both the research and decades of experience confirm that an integrated and holistic model is a necessity for a population that has long been denied basic health care. No choice was needed. Again, how could we not?

Today, Thresholds features more than 1,400 staff, nearly 100 locations, and a presence in nine Illinois counties. We continue to grow, refine and add services, and champion the needs of persons with mental illnesses and the organizations that serve them. Our CEO, Mark Ishaug, is a fierce advocate and leader for the healthcare rights and policies that have long faced the mental health community. And Mark cares deeply for our workforce and speaks with the same passion and enthusiasm Jerry spoke about decades ago. Thresholds is in good hands. As for me, well, I’m staying. There’s more important work to be done.

Sheila O'Neill
Sheila O’Neill has worked at Thresholds since 1983. She is the Vice President of Primary and Mental Health Care Integration, where she leads our efforts to reduce the occurrence of co-morbid physical health conditions, a primary reason why persons with mental illnesses die 25 years younger on average than the rest of the population. She was also Thresholds’ first Director of Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment (IDDT), where she led Thresholds in the adoption this evidence-based practice for persons with co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders. 


May Donor Spotlight – Grant Healthcare Foundation

May Donor Spotlight- Grant Healthcare Foundation

May’s Donor Spotlight highliGrant Healthcare Foundationghts a local institution with a history of providing quality healthcare in Chicago, Grant Healthcare Foundation.

Grant Healthcare Foundation continues the long tradition of Grant Hospital of Chicago, founded in 1883 in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago as “a sanctuary in case of sickness or accident for all persons, without distinction of belief or religious conviction.” The foundation’s mission is to support services of organizations dedicated to improving the health of the people of the Chicago metropolitan area by supporting mental health care and substance abuse treatment, vision and dental care, reproductive care, preventative medical programs, and improved access to care for uninsured and vulnerable populations. Grant Healthcare Foundation began its granting program in 1996.From inception through December 2015, Grant Healthcare Foundation has awarded grants totaling nearly $30 million.

Grant Healthcare Foundation’s giving history with Thresholds spans over a decade, totaling  more than $120,000 and includes support of the our integrated care clinics, the Veterans Project, the Domestic Violence Court Initiative, and most recently, an evaluation project to assess the impact of connecting individuals to primary care services. Thresholds deeply appreciates Grant Healthcare Foundation’s commitment to high quality mental and physical healthcare services in our community.

Why should we educate our communities about mental health challenges?

By Vanessa Klodnick, Ph.D, LCSW

When’s the last time you told your boss you needed to take a “sick day” because of your mental health?  Never, right?  This is a problem. Mental health struggles are incredibly prevalent and can significantly impact our capacity to thrive at home, on the job, and in the community. In some ways, we approach mental health problems much like we do physical health problems, we tend to (1) ignore them until they have substantially disrupted our life (and the lives of others who care for us) and (2) stop treatment after we start to feel better. Let’s be honest, how often have you really finished those prescribed antibiotics for your yearly onset sinus infection? Despite these similarities and the prevalence of mental health struggles in our society, having and coping with mental health symptoms continues to be a very stigmatizing experience for individuals- largely due to the fact that communities operate on harmful misinformation about mental health symptoms and treatment. We need to be able to openly discuss mental health experiences, including depression, anxiety, or irritability, with the same acceptance and understanding that we are able to discuss most physical health symptoms. Our lack of understanding and the stigma associated with talking about mental health struggles is truly a public health concern.

What we’re learning from research is that there are not only risk factors associated with the onset of serious mental health conditions, there are early warning signs that appear before the full-onset of a serious mental health condition. If these “warning signs” are identified early enough and treated by professionals, research suggests that the onset of a mental health condition that would otherwise developed into a lifelong struggle, can be prevented!  Although this is very exciting, it demands that people in the community can effectively spot these early warning signs and engage an individual (or their loved ones) in a conversation about what they are observing – and encourage them to seek mental health screening to assess if treatment is necessary. That’s a tall order given the stigma around mental illnesses that exists in communities, schools, and family systems.

To make any progress in the prevention of mental health conditions, we need to directly address stigma and be better about talking about mental health on a regular basis in our communities. In working with families who are coping with the recent onset of a loved one’s mental illness, we do a good job of emphasizing how mental health symptoms are no one’s fault.  But what we need to improve is in teaching society that the onset of a mental illnesses is also no one’s fault. We need to teach communities this fact, along with the early warning signs of mental health conditions that include:

  • Deterioration in work, school, relationships, and self-care and hygiene
  • Recognized changes in the way a person thinks or acts
  • Thinking that is disorganized, paranoid, or preoccupied with a specific topic
  • Decreased motivation and energy
  • Difficulties with memory and concentration
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed

We need to especially educate students in primary, secondary, and post-secondary education settings who can help spot these early warning signs in their friends far before adults do, as well as provide easily accessible online screening and information portals for youth, families, schools, and communities. We also need to educate our state institutions, organizations, employers, and providers about the early warning signs of mental health conditions as well as the benefits to maintaining overall wellness. Young adult and family peers who have lived experience with overcoming mental health struggles are especially effective in community mental health education and outreach efforts.

Thresholds is deeply committed to educating the community about mental health and wellness. We host informal and formal discussions about mental health, conduct trainings and workshops, and provide technical assistance and consulting. This summer, Thresholds is launching MindStrong, a coordinated specialty care program for first-episode psychosis, as well as, a second team Emerge, which is a multidisciplinary service approach for ages 18 to 26-year-olds with mental health needs. Both of these teams will add to Thresholds community education and outreach efforts specifically around early identification and intervention.

Resources to bring Mental Health Education to your Community:

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Vanessa Klodnick, Ph.D, LCSW is a senior researcher at Thresholds & a NIDILRR Switzer Fellow. Her work focuses on developing effective interventions for vulnerable transition-age youth, including those diagnosed with serious mental health challenges. Dr. Klodnick provides technical assistance and consultation to providers and systems locally and nationally, as well as adjunct teaches at The University of Chicago and Loyola.

On The Road to Mental Health Reform

On The Road to Mental Health Reform

By Heather O’Donnell

Each May, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we join millions of people across the nation to shine a light on the importance of treating mental health conditions like any other medical condition. And while some progress has been made to improve Illinois’ mental health system, much remains left to do.

The science is unequivocal – treatment works, and a normal, good quality life is possible. Yet, Illinois has never made access to mental health treatment a priority.

Most serious mental illnesses manifest during adolescence or young adulthood. But it takes an average of 10 years for someone to get the right diagnosis and treatment. This delay in treatment means a long, slow, and harsh spiral into countless hospitalizations, accumulating disability, the inability to work or attend school, poverty, homelessness, criminal justice involvement for survival crimes, and early death. Our current system fails to provide the level of care needed by someone with serious mental illness until they are disabled, when they are eligible for assistance from the State that they will likely require for the remainder of their life. If private insurance and the State provided comprehensive treatment right away, we could prevent a lifetime of disability.

It is time to change this trajectory. Illinois can and must do better by its citizens. Thresholds has outlined the Road Map to Mental Health Reform for improving access to high quality mental health treatment.  The Road Map is a set of concrete policy recommendations for what Illinois must do to build a strong mental health system that enables the right treatment at the right time.

One of our key recommendations is that Illinois must invest in proven early treatment approaches.  First Episode Treatment is a wrap-around treatment approach for young people experiencing early signs of a serious mental illness that includes psychosis, like schizophrenia. National research shows that First Episode Treatment can slow if not stop the progression of the illness, prevent disability, and reduce healthcare costs. Illinois’ Medicaid Program and private insurance must cover First Episode Treatment for psychosis and other early interventions for serious mental health conditions.

For far too long, mental illnesses have remained in the shadow of stigma. I have witnessed the positive impact treatment, housing, and support services have on Thresholds members. It is time to push forward and start treating mental health on par with all other medical conditions by providing the care necessary to stabilize and recover. Thresholds is pleased to be working with providers, advocates, and those with lived experience from across the state in support of the Road Map to Mental Health Reform, a comprehensive approach to strengthening mental health in Illinois. Learn more about the Road Map to Mental Health Reform and how you can get involved today.

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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.

Share Your Story

Share Your Story

By Caity-Shea Violette

As Manager of Marketing and Communications at Thresholds, a playwright whose work explores the personal impact of invisible disabilities, and someone who lives with PTSD and depression, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the power of personal story sharing countless times. To celebrate the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month at Thresholds, I’ll be discussing why sharing your story is so crucial to creating change, and offering some tips on how to get the conversation started.

Caity-Shea (L) at a disability rights rally that Thresholds attended at the Thompson Center in July 2015.

With 1 out of 5 people in America experiencing mental illnesses in their lifetime, mental health has touched all of our lives in some way. Due to a history of misinformation, however, societal stigma has made our experiences living with and loving those with mental illnesses the secret we all share. Despite inspiring strides made by advocates emphasizing the vital importance of mental health care, opening up conversations, and standing up to stigma , 60% of Americans living with mental illnesses didn’t receive mental health services in the past year.

Ready to raise your voice? Think about how mental illness has touched your life, either personally, through a loved one, or through your work. Here are some prompts to help you get started!

  • My story with mental illness begins…
  • I became involved with the mental health community when/after/because…
  • I advocate for mental health because…
  • Mental health matters because…

When you share your story on social media, use #HomeHealthHope to join the conversation! Thresholds might even reach out to see if you want to be highlighted as one of the community stories we’ll be featuring throughout the month. Tell your story and show the world why mental health matters to you!

Caity-Shea Violette
Caity-Shea Violette is Manager of Marketing and Communications at Thresholds, as well as an actress and playwright whose work has been seen in Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Minneapolis, NYC, Toronto, Denver, and Chicago.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to share experiences and facts, stand up to stigma, honor the mental health community, and welcome those who are joining us as advocates, friends, and family. In this spirit, Thresholds has planned an exciting month to help you advocate, participate, and celebrate!

Here are three easy ways to get involved!

1. Engage on Social Media
Each week, we’ll be posting a variety of content inspired by a weekly theme. Follow Thresholds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to check out inspiring stories and bust mental health myths with facts. Share our content with your network, and be part of the movement for change.

2. Share Your Story
With 1 out of 5 people in America experiencing mental illnesses in their lifetime, all of us have either experienced a mental illness or loved someone who struggles with mental health – it’s the secret we all share. Beginning a conversation, proudly showing support, or sharing how mental illness has impacted your life can empower others to share their own story and creates an opportunity for connection and belonging that extends far beyond you.

When you share your story on social media, use #HomeHealthHope to join the conversation! Thresholds might even reach out to see if you want to be highlighted as one of the community stories we’ll be featuring throughout the month. Tell your story and show the world why mental health matters to you. We’ll be posting tips and tools to help you get started.

3. Take Action
Thresholds is working for mental health policy change through our Roadmap to Mental Health Reform platform. You can sign up to receive our advocacy alerts or sign our petition to support change in Illinois’ fragmented mental health system.

Thresholds is joined in honoring Mental Health Awareness Month by many partner organizations, filling Illinois with events and opportunities to get involved all month long! Visit the Chicago Mental Health and Wellness Fair, take part in NAMI’s mental health rally at the Thompson Center, join the Kennedy Forum Illinois and host an On the Table conversation about mental health, and purchase some vibrant artwork created by Thresholds clients at the DMH Art Fair: There is Healing in Art.

2016 Thresholds Gala: Celebrations of Home

Looking for more ways to support?

– Join us at the 2016 Thresholds Gala: Celebrations of Home to celebrate and raise critical funds for our supported housing.

-Create change by making a donation to support Thresholds’ life-saving services


Charlie’s Story

Charlie’s Story

“I fell in love with this place from the first time I came here,” Charlie White, a member of the Thresholds Veterans Project, said as he walked around the Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual orchid show. Charlie and his fellow veterans have been participating in monthly horticultural therapy sessions with the Chicago Botanic Garden for the last few years.

IMG_2076Charlie’s mental illness reached its peak in 2012, causing him to lose his job, his home, and all of his possessions. He initially sought mental health services through other avenues, but quickly became frustrated. “I felt like I was on an assembly line, like I was just another number,” he recounted.  That’s when he came to Thresholds. For Charlie, one of the most important differences is that the staff members at Thresholds Veterans Project are former veterans themselves. “You can tell the difference with Thresholds, especially when it comes to veterans.  As a veteran, I suffer from PTSD and bouts of depression. They can sympathize better, they can relate better. Veterans taking care of other veterans is what really got me to turn towards them. They don’t put you on the back burner. It’s restored my faith in people, and my trust too”.

Through the support and guidance Charlie found at Thresholds, much of his life has changed. He’s been able to go back to school, had several internships, and even acquired an apartment. While regaining some of these pieces of his former ambitions means a great deal to him, the spiritual gifts seem to be the most important. To his surprise, learning Yoga from his case manager Pierre has helped him view life entirely differently. “Yoga has taught me how to rethink things,” Charlie said. “The breathing techniques, the different poses… I have tools now that I can use when I feel myself spiraling into that depression. I’m learning how to rethink situations and deal with them better.”

As Charlie walked around the orchid show with his head held high, slowly breathing in the fresh warm air, he shared what he’s accomplished since joining Thresholds Veterans Project, including feeling reconnected with his love of nature. “Coming here brings me a lot of joy, it’s just so peaceful,” he said gazing out at the thousands of orchids in the sun-drenched greenhouse. Charlie now makes pilgrimages to other spots of natural beauty for moments of quiet, personal reflection. Most recently, Charlie will begin an internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Living Plant Documentation Department, an opportunity he lights up with pride to explain. “Thanks to Thresholds and the horticulture here, everything’s kind of turning around”.

Looking forward, Charlie hopes to start traveling again, but says his top priority is to nurture his newfound peace and balance. “My main goal is to keep mentally healthy and stimulated. I know there’s no magic pill. When I look back at those moments of deep depression… like you’re down in the earth and so stuck you don’t know where to go… I don’t want to ever get like that again,” he explained. “Cause if I can keep that together, all the other stuff will fall into place. I’m like, ‘Wow! It’s happening,’” he smiled quietly in reflection. “It’s really happening.”