Legislators Mull Creation of Behavioral Health Workforce Center

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(Springfield, IL) ā€“ A new report recently delivered to state lawmakers that says Illinois’ behavioral health workforce has lurched from "emergency" to "crisis" and calls on the legislature to establish a permanent "workforce education center" to address an acute shortage of workers, especially in rural areas of the state, that was the subject of Senate and House hearings on March 3 and 5, respectively.

Lawmakers heard from Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois CEO Marvin Lindsey, the chair of the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center Task Force, authorized by the Illinois General Assembly, and other task force members whose report says that since a 2018 Illinois House resolution, HR 711, officially declared a "behavioral health workforce emergency" in the state that the "emergency has escalated to a crisis. In fact, the statistics are blinking red."

The task force, whose members include representatives from the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and the Illinois Department of Human Service ā€“ Division of Mental Health, envisions that the permanent workforce center would be a collaborative leadership effort, according to Lindsey.

"The Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center of Illinois would build a pipeline for behavioral health professionals and anchor research and education for behavioral health workforce development. It would be structured as a consortium of research and education institutions that will coordinate the workforce center’s efforts across the State of Illinois to correct behavioral health workforce shortages and foster improved behavioral health outcomes," said Lindsey.

"The center will collect and analyze workforce data; build partnerships with school districts, colleges and universities, and workforce investment agencies; develop best-practice tracking systems; and provide technical assistance to support professional training," Lindsey added.

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) is sponsoring the legislation, SB 3501, to create the center.

"Senator Steans recognizes the magnitude and urgency of the workforce crisis," said Lindsey. "We are deeply grateful for her leadership on creation of a behavioral health workforce center."

In the 55-page report, the 12-member panel, steered by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, pointed to a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate showing that only 23.3% of Illinoisans’ mental health needs can be met with its current workforce with wait times for psychiatrist appointments, for example, stretching to 4 to 6 months in some cases. Moreover, in rural Illinois, 93.7% or low-income and under-insured individuals and families live in designated mental health shortage areas.

Illinois’ historic budget impasse between the legislature and then-Governor Bruce Rauner between 2015 and 2017 only exacerbated the workforce problem.

"Since the budget impasse we have seen turnover numbers or vacancies that we are unable to fill at records rates," Sherrie L. Crabb, Chief Executive Officer, Family Counseling Center, Inc. in Cairo, is quoted saying in the report. "Some behavioral healthcare positions have a 60% turnover and some positions have been vacant for over 1 year."

Georgianne Broughton, Executive Director, Community Resource Center, in Centralia, echoed her colleague from Cairo.

"We have had no applicants for clinical positions who have possessed a master’s degree or license since 2018," Broughton said. "In 2019 we have only been able to hire individuals with bachelor’s degrees and no experience or minimal experience to fill clinical positions."

Lindsey cautioned that a workforce education center alone would be unable solve the state’s workforce crisis.

"From the start, task force fully understood that to tame the Illinois workforce crisis, lawmakers and Governor J.B. Pritzker must act on a broad front to address the crisis, because a workforce center is the starting line, not the finish line," said Lindsey. "Among the solutions, revamping the State of Illinois’ behavioral health financing that considers the cost of providing services and the need to pay employees commensurate with their required education and levels of responsibility, which is addressed by new rate increase legislation, SB 3385, also sponsored by Senator Steans."

The Senate Human Services Committee lead off the hearings on Tuesday, March 3, at 2:00 p.m. in room 409 Capitol.The House Mental Health Committee followed up with a hearing on Thursday, March 5, at 9 a.m. in room 114 Capitol.

davidormsby@davidormsby.com

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via Springfield, IL Patch

March 5, 2020 at 08:07PM

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