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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has said his administration’s focus on mental health and substance use disorders is paying off; the state is the only one to receive an A rating for complying with the Federal Parity Law, which stipulates that mental health and substance use disorders be treated like other illnesses.
“Our goal is to lead the nation in providing high quality, cost efficient health care. The Kennedy-Satcher assessment score is a clear indicator for our progress. There is more work to do and our teams are working together to make more advances in these important areas of public health,” Rauner declared in a statement.
To illustrate the significance of Illinois’ achievement, it had a 100 percent rating–the only state to receive an A rating. Tennessee was second with a C rating after scoring 79 percent. A total of 32 states received a failing grade according to the “Evaluating State Mental Health and Addiction Parity Statutes,” which was jointly released by the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity, The Kennedy Forum, The Carter Center, and Well Being Trust (WBT) Center.
Illinois Department of Human Services secretary, James Dimas, said he believed the state’s parity laws “will lead to greater access to care for those struggling with mental health and substance use issues.”
In 2013, Illinois launched a mental health strategic plan running until 2018 and the authorities believe their efforts have paid off.
Among the strategic priorities of the plan, were to provide sufficient home- and community-based services to give consumers real options in care settings, improve access to care, and reduce regulatory redundancy.
Other strategic priorities were to obtain and maintain financial viability for providers in a cost-effective manner to the state, ensure that care is effective, efficient, and appropriate regardless of the setting in which it is provided, ensure the quality of care in all care settings via the use of appropriate clinical outcomes and to ensure that hospitalization and institutional care, when necessary, are available to meet demand now and in the future.
“This summer, four years of work paid off, as the governor signed a major, bipartisan mental health package focused on comprehensive, evidence-based solutions. One of the bills, Senate Bill 1707, improves insurance companies’ coverage of mental health and substance use disorder treatments and strengthens the ability of the Illinois Department of Insurance (IDOI) to protect consumers,” a statement from Rauner’s office said.
This is a huge improvement for Illinois. In 2015, mental health care in the state was said to be in a crisis. It was reported that between 2009 and 2012, the state had cut $113.7 million in funding from mental health services and closed two in-patient facilities, yet emergency room visits for people experiencing psychiatric crisis had increased by 19 percent.
Just recently, Illinois approved a raft of laws expanding telehealth services for patients on Medicaid. The new laws expand access to telemedicine for mental and behavioral change patients. These groups were not covered by the old laws.
Illinois is battling a serious opioid crisis and to alleviate the epidemic Rauner signed into law a medical marijuana expansion program known as the Alternative to Opioid Act. The new laws are meant to help stop the opioid epidemic while improving mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
“The governor has made mental health and substance use disorder treatment a priority throughout his term, enacting landmark reforms such as the first-ever legislation allowing doctors to substitute medical marijuana for opioids. He also led the effort to begin partnerships between law enforcement agencies and licensed substance abuse service providers,” a statement from Rauner’s office said.
In their evaluation report, the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity, The Kennedy Forum, The Carter Center, and Well Being Trust (WBT) Center focused on three priority areas: mental health conditions must be recognized as broadly as “physical” health conditions; co-payments and out-of-pocket costs must be the same for mental health services as they are for physical health services; states should strengthen enforcement and compliance activities by empowering regulatory agencies to enforce parity laws.
In a statement accompanying the report, former Congressman, Patrick J. Kennedy, said there was need to break the silence “surrounding barriers to care and bring transparency to a system that oppresses those with mental health and substance use disorders. Treatment services shouldn’t be something only the rich can afford and no parent should ever have to face financial ruin to save their child’s life, especially after paying into an insurance plan diligently for years.”
It is estimated that one in five Americans experiences a mental illness every year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago chapter estimates that 5 million Illinois adults are living with poor mental health, 2.1 million are living with mental illness and 434,000 have a serious mental illness.