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Illinois lawmakers are looking to address staffing issues in mental health

Illinois Senate members are discussing a piece of legislation that would accelerate the process for out-of-state clinicians applying for licensure in Illinois.

Senate Bill 3617 would also suspend requirements for social workers, professional counselors, and clinical psychologists with licenses that have been inactive for five years.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health-related visits are up by 24% since 2020 for children ages 5 to 11, while visits by children ages 12 to 17 have gone up 31%.

While the number of mental health-related issues are increasing in Illinois, the number of health care professionals has seen a dramatic decline, according to state State Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview.

“We are in a behavioral health workforce crisis,” Fine said. “In-patient facilities will tell you that even though they have empty beds, they can’t fill those beds because they don’t have the qualified professionals to work with those patients.”

Randy Wells, vice president for Mental Health Policy at Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, has been in support of the legislation and explained what this bill could do to help mental health facilities.

“It talks about getting people into the workforce and expediting the credentialing,” Wells said. “This is not an academic exercise, this gets to the workforce issue at the community provider level.”

Fine said it is her goal to get those suffering from mental health issues the same treatment and support that other illnesses get.

“In Illinois, we want to be sure that mental health and physical health are viewed as one and the same because you really cannot have one without the other,” Fine said. “This legislation takes the first steps to improve access to mental health care across the state by working to increase the mental health workforce, and reminds people that we support them in their brave decision to seek behavioral and mental health care.”

The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 54-0 and now is in the House. SB3617 has 20 co-sponsors.

This article was originally posted on Illinois lawmakers are looking to address staffing issues in mental health

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