IL Senate Bills 682, 2951, 3023, 1707
In 2018, several new laws were introduced to the Illinois Senate in an effort to give the state’s population better access to mental health and addiction treatment, particularly opioid abuse treatment.
The need for these bills was apparent. In 2017, the state launched a hotline to help people struggling with opioid abuse and their loved ones. In the first eight months that the 24/7 hotline was operational, operators received 5,000 calls.
That same year, the state saw 2,110 overdose deaths involving opioid drugs. Abuse rates of other substances, like marijuana, alcohol, and stimulants, are also high.
The Opioid Abuse Epidemic
Around the United States, the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic has devastated communities. In 2019, about 130 people die every day from opioid overdoses, primarily involving heroin or fentanyl.
Many of the people who struggle with opioid addiction and abuse first received a prescription for narcotic painkillers from a doctor, and they have been unable to stop taking these substances. Expanding treatment, including through legal remedies as Illinois has demonstrated, is the best way to help people overcome opioid addiction. Treatment has been shown to reduce instances of overdose, resulting in fewer deaths due to opioids.
Specifics of the Senate Bills in Illinois
Each bill addresses addiction or mental health treatment in a different way, but they all aim to improve access to good treatment for all residents of Illinois.
- Illinois Senate Bill 682: This bill was designed to remove an administrative barrier to getting treatment by amending the Illinois insurance code. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance companies to provide behavioral, mental, and substance abuse treatment services, many insurance companies can deny coverage for immediate, medically necessary treatment like hospitalization for psychiatric reasons. Insurance may also authorize a delay in care, which can prevent someone in desperate need of detox and rehabilitation from getting responsive, appropriate treatment.
This bill authorizes medical providers to give someone treatment for substance abuse for 72 hours while the individual appeals any insurance rejection or delay.
- Illinois Senate Bill 2951: This crucial bill allows the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to apply for waivers that permit the treatment of serious mental illness, like the first episode of psychosis. Sometimes, psychotic episodes are triggered by drugs or alcohol, so having access to appropriate mental health treatment can lead to further diagnoses.
SB2951 also creates a pilot programfor adolescents and young adults who are experiencing their first symptoms of mental illness, especially serious mental illness, so they can receive better lifetime care.
While the other bills listed will be implemented in the next few years, SB2951 has been implemented immediately, helping to expand treatment access in important ways.
- Illinois Senate Bill 3023: This bill is inspired by the Safe-Passage Program from Dixon, Illinois. The program links law enforcement with licensed substance abuse treatment providers, so people struggling with drugs or alcohol are not simply incarcerated; they are sent into addiction treatment instead.
In Dixon, this program put 215 people struggling with opioid abuse in detox and rehabilitation programs rather than prison, where they would have suffered intense withdrawal symptoms and had a higher risk of relapse when they were released. These types of programs have been associated with higher rates of sobriety and lower rates of recidivism.
- Illinois Senate Bill 1707: This bill strengthens the Illinois Department of Insurance’s ability to protect consumers in the midwestern state and improves coverage of mental health and substance abuse treatment.
The goal of the law is to allow treatment providers to do their best to help clients, without insurance companies completely dictating the course of treatment that is appropriate based on cost-saving measures. For example, prior authorization for each step of treatment is now eliminated for FDA-approved medications that treat substance abuse. In addition, addiction treatment services cannot be excluded from coverage because they are ordered by the court.
The bill had overwhelming bipartisan support when it passed the Illinois Senate.
More Access to Treatment for Those Struggling With Addiction in Illinois
These bills, along with several others, have expanded the ability of substance abuse and mental health service providers to help clients struggling with acute drug abuse, mental illness symptoms, or both. They aim to change how insurance companies work with health care providers to address these chronic, harmful illnesses.
Illinois is improving residents’ ability to access high-quality treatment and cultivating a more open relationship between treatment providers and clients. The goal is to treat mental health issues with the same high level of care as other medical issues.