Senate OKs Fix to Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Crisis

(Springfield, IL) – An Illinois State Senate panel and full Senate approved separate bills last week to create an independent, university-based organization to reverse the state’s behavioral workforce crisis, plagued by worker shortages both in rural and urban regions

First, the Senate Behavioral and Mental Health Committee voted 8-3 on March 24 in favor of legislation, SB1979, to create the Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center of Illinois.

“Our state’s behavioral health community has been sounding the alarm on our state’s behavioral health workforce shortage crisis for years, an issue that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Community Behavioral Healthcare Association CEO Marvin Lindsey. “Our state currently lacks a centralized and coordinated behavioral health workforce strategy, but this legislation creating a workforce center solves that strategic problem.”

Lindsey noted that in Illinois about 38% or nearly 4.9 million individuals reside in designated behavioral health workforce shortage area and that behavioral workforce shortages are especially acute in rural areas.

“We have had no applicants for clinical positions who have possessed a master’s degree or license since 2018,” said Georgianne Broughton, Executive Director, of the Community Resource Center located 298 miles south of Chicago in Carlyle, Illinois. “In 2019, for example, we were only able to hire individuals with bachelor’s degrees and no experience or minimal experience to fill clinical positions.”

The behavioral workforce center, as conceived in the bill sponsored by State Senator Laura Fine (D-Evanston), chair of the Senator Behavioral and Mental Health Committee, would be organized as a consortium of universities that would convene cross-sector partners including providers, school districts, law enforcement, consumers and their families, state agencies, and other stakeholders to implement workforce development strategies in every region of Illinois.

“Behavioral health workforce shortages, including a culturally, linguistically, and geographically diverse workforce, must be addressed if Illinois is to meet the mental health and substance use needs of rural communities, communities of color, and urban as well as suburban regions alike,” said Fine. “A Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center of Illinois will go a long way to accomplishing those objectives.”

Later on Wednesday, the full Senate approved legislation, HB158, sponsored by State Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), the health care pillar of the legislative Black Caucus agenda, that contains near identical language on the creation of the Behavioral Health Workforce Education Center of Illinois.

Lindsey says the idea of a state-backed workforce center is inspired by the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska.

“From 2010 to 2018, the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska reported a nearly 17% increase in their state’s behavioral health workforce, said Lindsey. “The Nebraska center is considered a best practice for innovative programs to train, recruit and retain behavioral health professionals in rural and urban communities.”

Fine’s legislation now moves to the full Senate for consideration and Lilly’s bill heads to the governor’s desk.


via Springfield Patch

March 29, 2021 at 02:01PM

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