A package of bills to enhance how Illinois’ medical community deals with mental health and substance abuse disorder treatment is now law.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed five bills Wednesday at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.

Illinois Department of Insurance Director Jennifer Hammer said the package of bills should make it easier for those seeking help.

“They're strengthening parity laws that we want to enforce and make sure that your medical surgical treatment is treated just the same as mental health and removing barriers for treatment so we’re meeting people at the right time, at the right place with the right treatment,” Hammer said.

Rauner said the bills are about making Illinois a national leader in delivering mental health services.

“These bills work in partnership with what our administration has done in achieving a very important waiver from the federal government in our Medicaid programing to get proactive, high quality mental health services in a way delivered proactively, early in treatment, that’s never been done before,” Rauner said. “And it also helps enhance the work we’ve done with our opioid task force.”

Chief Medical Officer for St. John’s Hospital, Gurpreet Mander, said Senate Bill 3049 requires the state to make medicaid payments for behavioral health management through telemedicine.

“But it does not mandate all insurers to pay,” Mander said. “As time moves along, we are hopeful, those of us in the telemedicine world, that that will occur.”

Telepsychology allows someone to video chat with a professional to address mental illness.

Mander said that will save money, especially in more rural areas, by helping provide timely access and unnecessary admissions and readmissions.

“And also it prevents travel costs for the patients who would have to travel hundreds of miles to get the services they need,” Mander said.

Hammer said another measure creates a pilot program to address the first episode of mental illness.

“It’s called first-episode treatment,” Hammer said. “It’s intense treatment right from the first episode, so we’re really excited about that.”

Hammer said the legislation allows the state to look for matching dollars from the federal government for the services.

The bills are: SB0682: Emergency Opioid & Addiction Treatment Access Act; SB1707: Mental Health Parity Enforcement & Advancement Act; SB2951: Early Mental Health Treatment Pilot Program; SB3049: Medicaid Telehealth Act and SB3023: Substance Abuse Deflection Program.


Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.