Breaking down barriers to reintegrate mental health professionals into the labor market

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SPRING FIELD – Illinois will now have greater access to mental and behavioral health specialists thanks to legislation signed Friday and supported by State Senator Scott Bennett.

“People living with mental health issues often go without treatment because of the barriers in place,” Bennett (D-Champaign) said. “This new law breaks down those barriers and will help people access the care they need when they need it most.

In Illinois, there are only 14 behavioral health professionals for every 10,000 Illinois residents. Many people are forced to wait longer for essential treatment or forgo health care entirely because of this gap. This can harm their mental and physical well-being.

To address these issues, the new law emphasizes expanding the current workforce. It speeds up the process for out-of-state clinicians applying for a license in Illinois, as well as streamlines requirements for social workers, professional counselors and clinical psychologists with licenses that have been inactive for five years. Additionally, it includes initiatives to support diversity in mental health, establishes tax credits, and includes many other provisions, all of which will encourage quality and accessible care for those seeking help.

“It takes courage and strength to ask for help. Being told you have to wait weeks — or months — for care is extremely discouraging,” said State Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview), the legislation’s lead sponsor. “We need to support people struggling with mental and behavioral health issues, as well as the difficulties our mental health providers face in trying to see as many patients as possible. This law will address both issues and ensure that Illinois will have greater access to quality mental health care.

The law, originally Senate Bill 3617, takes effect immediately.

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