Report: Illinois' mental health crisis will linger until investments are made in mental health and substance use treatment services

Medicaid revisions – including early treatment for youth, and access to affordable mental healthcare and addiction treatment – are necessary to combat the state’s deadly substance use and mental health crisis.
In a report released today, Thresholds, the state’s largest provider of community mental health services, makes several recommendations for the path Illinois must take to address its long-standing mental health crisis.
The report outlines concrete recommendations for the early treatment of youth with serious mental health conditions. These recommendations have the potential to reduce suicide rates, prevent disability, and decrease the likelihood of addiction as a method of self-medication.  A standout proposal on early treatment is the creation and coverage of youth-focused treatment models tailored specifically for adolescents and young adults, as this is often the age range when mental health symptoms first appear. This type of treatment can prevent a lifetime of disability and reliance on public support. Yet Illinois’ adult-focused system prevents many youth from receiving necessary treatment until they are experiencing debilitating and irreversible illness.
The report also includes recommendations on growing access to both mental health and substance use treatment services, which is crucial as the state grapples with the increasing number of opioid overdose deaths. The state must revise Medicaid reimbursement rates to allow for the growth of treatment services. Unless this step is taken, thousands across Illinois will be forced to go without treatment, and overdose deaths and suicide rates will continue to rise unabated.
The report also addresses expanding the mental health workforce through the creation of a number of incentives for the practice of mental health and substance use treatment in workforce shortage areas.
The investments outlined in the report could save the state an estimated $1.9 billion annually if enacted, as well as save thousands of lives through early treatment.
We hope the report will help guide Illinois lawmakers as they consider how to address Illinois’ mental health crisis.
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About Thresholds
Established in 1959, Thresholds provides healthcare, housing, and hope for thousands of persons with mental illnesses and substance use conditions in Illinois. Through research, employment, advocacy, care, and housing, Thresholds assists and inspires individuals to reclaim their lives.
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