Illinois announces initiative to improve care for mental health - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Illinois announces initiative to improve care for mental health patients

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WSIL-TV - Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced a new initiative today to help those in Illinois suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. 

It's called the Better Care Illinois Behavioral Health Initiative, a $2 billion effort to improve care in the state for mental health and substance abuse patients. 

"It will be one of the most important days in the history public health in Illinois," said Rauner. 

Rauner and several state agencies announce a change in the way Illinois handles Medicaid. Illinois becomes the 10th state to gain an 1115 waiver that would expand the state's Medicaid funding. 

"What you do through the pilot is you test certain services to demonstrate that there are cost savings," said Felicia Norwood, director of the Illinois Department of Human and Family Services. She says the programs would address a variety of mental and behavioral health issues in Illinois through programs such as crisis intervention, housing services and recovery from opioids. 

"Individuals no longer have just the option going to higher costs institutional and ER care to get necessary services," said Norwood. She says many don't seek treatment because Medicaid won't pay due to their age. Part of the 1965 Social Security Act prohibits Medicaid payments to institutions greater than 16 beds which specialize in mental health. This waiver changes that.

"Mental health behavioral health is something that impacts everyone in our state, it knows no geography," said Norwood. 

That waiver is set to last for 5 years and could be renewed. Illinois can begin using those funds differently come July first.

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