Statehouse measure aims to increase Illinois mental health workers

State lawmakers are looking to make it easier for out-of-state mental health clinicians to get licensed in Illinois with a bill ready to send to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 3617 also suspends requirements for social workers, professional counselors, and clinical psychologists with licenses that have been inactive for five years. The measure, which passed both the Illinois House and Senate unanimously, also as provides grants to help provide resources like beds for residential mental health treatment centers. Public funds for the grants would be subject to state appropriation.

Since 2020, mental health-related issues are on the rise, especially among young people, after many children were left to stay inside and away from other people during the pandemic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health-related visits are up by 24% since 2020 for children ages 5 to 11, while visits by children ages 12 to 17 have gone up 31%.

While the number of mental health-related issues is increasing in Illinois, the number of health care professionals has seen a dramatic decline, according to state Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview.

“We are in a behavioral health workforce crisis,” Fine said. “In-patient facilities will tell you that even though they have empty beds, they can’t fill those beds because they don’t have the qualified professionals to work with those patients.”

Randy Wells, vice president for Mental Health Policy at Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, explained what this bill can do to help mental health facilities.

“It talks about getting people into the workforce and expediting the credentialing,” Wells said. “This is not an academic exercise. This gets to the workforce issue at the community provider level.”

Fine said it is time to start treating mental health issues with the same support and treatment that other illnesses garner.

“In Illinois, we want to be sure that mental health and physical health are viewed as one and the same because you really cannot have one without the other,” Fine said.

SB3617 can now be sent to the governor.

This article was originally posted on Statehouse measure aims to increase Illinois mental health workers

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