Mental Health Advocates Say Hire More Workers or System Will Not Get Better

Mental Health Advocates Say Hire More Workers or System Will Not Get Better

ILLINOIS (IRN) — The picture from mental health advocates is grim.

More than half the people in Illinois who need mental health services don’t get it. And those who do get treatment, often only get it in jail or prison.

Heather O’Donnell, with the treatment center Thresholds, told lawmakers at a hearing in Chicago on Monday that Illinois is facing a crisis.

“We know treatment works when people can get it. But many, many, many people across the state can’t get it,” O’Donnell said. “That ends up in a lot of tragedy, and a lot of illness, and a lot of death, quite frankly.”

O’Donnell said a lack of mental health care providers means there is a lack of mental health care. Except in prisons or jails.

“The vast majority of people who have a mental health condition don’t get treatment,” O’Donnell told lawmakers. “Over 60 percent of children who have a mental health condition never get treatment. And about 55 percent of adults don’t get treatment. These are national statistics.”

O’Donnell said Illinois can improve the care that is available by paying care organizations more.

That will likely require a change in how Illinois’ Medicaid system reimburses care providers. No estimates for how much that will cost were presented at the hearing.