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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Illinois Report on Reducing Costs, Improving Care for Untreated Mental Illness

NAMI Illinois Joins with Law Enforcement, Others to Launch State-Wide "Campaign for the Mind of America"

APRIL 13, Springfield, IL – At a Capitol press conference, NAMI Illinois and partners from Illinois’ law enforcement, medical, education and social service communities have released a new report, Answering the Call: Reducing The Costs of Untreated Mental Illness in Illinois, While Improving Care.

Almost a million Illinois citizens are affected by potentially disabling mental illnesses every year.

The full report is available at The executive summary (below) outlines its three-point, cost-effective action plan to reduce the financial and moral costs of untreated mental illness to individuals, families, and taxpayers.

  • Criminal diversion
  • Investment in core services
  • Insurance parity

"Leaders and citizens in communities across the state of Illinois are confronted daily with the challenges that untreated mental illness place on those in law enforcement," said Michael Geiger Deputy Chief of the Springfield Police Department. "In many cases police officers may be the first responders called to the scene of a person suffering a mental health crisis. This is particularly true for those individuals who are mentally ill, and happen to be living at a poverty level on the street or in substandard housing; and, for whatever reasons, have a very poor support network."

"It is so important that the law enforcement responders have the training and expertise to try to de-escalate a situation, hopefully bring calm to the scene, and be part of facilitating a positive outcome for the individual. We are proud that the Springfield Police Department and Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department organized the Central Illinois Crisis Intervention Team, which was the first law enforcement crisis intervention team within the State of Illinois."

"Given today’s budgetary difficulties in Illinois, meeting patient needs through an array of services can appear challenging," said Barbara Doyle President of NAMI IL -- the Illinois chapter of NAMI, the Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness. "Yet, drastic budget cuts put individuals already at risk in greater jeopardy and ultimately cost taxpayers much more. In Answering the Call, we lay out a clear, affordable plan based on proven treatments and the experiences of other states."

"We know from long experience that creative collaborations between mental health systems and criminal justice systems not only reduce crime but also save public dollars," said Anthony M. Zipple, CEO of Thresholds, which operates a successful jail diversion program in Chicago. "Instead of slashing mental health services, the state should be looking for innovative ways to move them to forward."

The press conference also marked the state launch of the "Campaign for the Mind of America," a multi-year national and state-level initiative to increase access to mental health treatment and services and show the effects of untreated mental illness on every community.

"The Campaign for the Mind of America is working in Illinois to ensure that as state leaders face tough fiscal choices, they make smart decisions." said Ron Honberg, NAMI National Director of Public Policy. "Every study shows that while cutting mental health services and treatments may result in short term budget savings, the long term costs of untreated mental disorders is much greater."

Untreated mental illness costs the nation more than $100 billion annually to lost productivity. Major additional costs also are shifted on to other sectors of society, such as law enforcement, education, and emergency rooms---making them unfairly and inefficiently the front lines of mental health treatment.


Answering the Call: Executive Summary

Reducing The Costs of Untreated Mental Illness in Illinois, While Improving Care

With almost one million citizens of Illinois suffering from a serious mental disorder in any given year, mental illness touches almost every family in the state. The direct and indirect costs to Illinois of mental illness total more than $2.6 billion a year. State and county governments are forced to pay millions of dollars in emergency medical care, education interventions, long-term nursing home care, unemployment, housing, and law enforcement, including juvenile justice, jail and prison costs. Everyone is affected.

And yet, mental illness is a challenge that can be met. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and experts in the field are promoting proven interventions that promote recovery -- including the use of new and improved psychotropic medications, and implementation of evidence-based practices (EBPs).

Sadly, despite such advances, nearly 50% of all people with a serious mental illness do not get the treatment they need. In Illinois and other states inadequate health insurance coverage, stigma, financial disincentives to treatment and lack of qualified mental health professionals push needed treatments and services out of reach.

  1. An Action Plan for Illinois

To close these gaps and decrease the costs of untreated mental illness, NAMI Illinois and the Campaign for the Mind of America recommend:

  • Jail Diversion: Every citizen of Illinois should have confidence that the state’s correctional institutions are reserved for criminals, not for those whose only transgression is having an illness.
  1. Proven programs such as Crisis Intervention Teams and Mental Health Courts must be available statewide.
  2. Quality, evidence-based services have sharply reduced the number of people with severe mental illnesses who fall into the criminal justice systems, saving taxpayer dollars.
  • Investments in Core Services: Illinois must fulfill its promise to its most vulnerable citizens and fully fund the community mental health care system. These investments would yield huge savings by preventing unnecessary incarcerations, chronic homelessness, overcrowding in emergency departments. while helping people with serious mental illness live independent lives and contribute to their communities.
  1. Illinois should change to a fee-for-service payment model, which will ensure that people receive evidence-based care, while providing better accountability to taxpayers of the state.
  2. The House should pass HB1451, which will strengthen community-based mental health services for people with severe mental illness.
  • Mental health parity: Illinois must protect its current parity law, while taking steps to join other states in enacting parity legislation that includes broader benefits for the state residents.
  1. The legislature should pass HB 59 this year. The bill would extend Illinois existing mental health parity law, which is due to expire on December 31, 2005.
  2. The current law should be broadened because it exempts small employers and ERISA plans, leaving many employees in the state without parity coverage
  3. The current law also only addresses severe mental illness, leaving no parity benefit for children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances.

II. New Approaches To Reducing Costs And Improving Care

In a time of tough choices, this report also offers economically sound solutions to protect services for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. In particular, Illinois should learn from other states such as Michigan, Missouri, Vermont and others that are facing similar budget pressures and have developed innovative programs to care for people with mental illness.

III. Conclusion

Given today’s budgetary difficulties in Illinois, meeting patient needs through an array of services can appear challenging. Yet, drastic budget cuts will ultimately cost taxpayers much more while putting individuals already at risk in greater jeopardy.

NAMI Illinois and the Campaign for the Mind of America are prepared to work with all stakeholders. We want to develop common goals and solutions to ensure that systems of care and social supports efficiently and effectively aid recovery, so people with mental illness can be productive members of their community.

Read the full report (PDF file)

More about Campaign for the Mind of America in Illinois


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