Letter: Remembering May as Mental Health Month
May is Mental Health Month. As a state representative and chair of the House Mental Health and Addiction Committee, removing mental health stigma and increasing access to care has been my priority. During the spring legislative session, my colleagues and I took concrete action to address the mental health epidemic that has affected every corner of our state.
Last year, a joint subject matter hearing regarding youth mental health I co-chaired uncovered shortcomings that arose after the state was forced to close more than 500 inpatient pediatric psychiatric beds under then Gov. Rauner. As a result of the hearing, Gov. Pritzker appointed Dr. Dana Weiner to address the immediate crisis and transform the way Illinois cares for children struggling with mental health disorders.
Additionally, I successfully advocated for the appointment of a Chief Behavioral Health Officer to oversee all state mental health programs. On March 21, Gov. Pritzker appointed David Jones to fill this role.
On the legislative side, a bill I sponsored passed to help ensure that children with Medicaid have access to life-changing Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. We also passed legislation to increase the workforce in the mental and behavioral health field. This legislation establishes a tax credit for employers who hire individuals with mental illness or substance use disorders. It will also create a council to advise the Illinois Department of Human Services on the impact of mental illness on employment.
The budget we passed in April includes a quarter of a billion dollars for mental health. Illinois has made mental health a priority. While there is much more work to be done to support Illinoisans, I am proud of the work we have accomplished. In Illinois, no one is alone.
State Rep. Deb Conroy