Backing efforts to increase access to mental health and substance abuse disorder treatment, legislation sponsored by Senator Tim Bivins (Dixon) was signed into law.
“This new law focuses on preventive measures in dealing with the opioid crisis and other substance abuse issues,” said Sen. Bivins, R-Dixon. “It partners law enforcement agencies with licensed substance abuse service providers to treat individuals with substance abuse problems before they are arrested. Getting these individuals help before they enter the jail system will make it easier for them to resume their daily routines later without a criminal record, and will reduce the burden on local jail and court systems.”
Senate Bill 3023, modeled off the Safe-Passage Program in Dixon, Illinois, connects law enforcement with licensed substance abuse service providers in order to focus on preventive measures in dealing with the opioid crisis and other substance use issues. Dixon has had great success with 215 people placed directly into treatment over incarceration. This has resulted in a 39 percent reduction in arrests for drug crimes, as well as properly deflecting people to get the medically driven substance abuse help they need instead of making it difficult for them to get help because of a criminal record.
“Deflection programs provide police officers with another option when dealing with someone they believe may have opioid or other substance abuse problems,” said Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, who co-sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “Continuously arresting and locking up such troubled individuals rarely fixes their underlying issue. It is my hope that with these deflection programs, we can get people the treatment and help they need to get better.”
Another recently signed measure, Senate Bill 1707, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, improves the scope and coverage of Illinois’ parity laws and provides clear enforcement power to the Department of Insurance (DOI). The legislation prohibits prior authorization and step-therapy requirements for FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders and requires generic medications be on the lowest-tier of prescription formularies. The new law also prohibits exclusions of the prescription coverage and related support services for substance use disorders because they are court-ordered, and aims to improve transparency by requiring insurance companies to make parity compliance information available via a public website. The law clarifies that medication-assisted treatment medical necessity determinations must comply with the American Society of Addiction medicine guidelines. Finally, the legislation requires that school district plans comply with state parity laws.
Senate Bill 682 was also signed, acting as a key component to address Illinois’ opioid crisis by providing people in need immediate access to outpatient treatment. Currently, individuals experiencing an opioid overdose or reaction must wait for their treatment to be approved by their insurance plan before entering a facility. The legislation removes prior authorization barriers so people do not have to wait for treatment. In the event the insurance company denies treatment, SB 682 requires the insurance plan to cover outpatient treatment for 72 hours while the patient challenges the denial.
Seeking to ensure more people receive the vital treatment they require, while also lowering the cost of health care, Senate Bill 3049, expands access to behavioral and mental health experts for Medicaid beneficiaries by allowing patients to meet their behavior and mental health needs via telehealth technology, as is the current practice in over 30 states. The hope is that the new law will lead to fewer emergency visits, reduced hospital stays and readmissions, and a better quality of life for those with mental and behavioral needs—while also reducing costs to taxpayers.
The legislation requires Medicaid to reimburse eligible behavioral and mental health providers at the same rate it would reimburse for in-person care. The measure will also allow schools, hospitals, substance abuse centers and other Medicaid-eligible facilities that serve as the location of the patient at the time of a telehealth appointment to receive a $25 facility fee from Medicaid. Currently, reimbursement is only provided to psychiatrists and Federally Qualified Health Centers for telepsychiatry.
Recognizing early intervention is important in reducing the severity of the progression of serious mental illness—particularly for young people, as well as preventing future emergency room visits, Senate Bill 2951, provides the Department of Health and Family Services (HFS) the opportunity to apply for a waiver that would allow treatment for serious mental illness on the first episode of psychosis. If federal approval is granted, Illinois will be the first state in the country to cover through Medicaid a treatment model, including intensive wrap-around services, tailored specifically for young people in the early stages of a serious mental health condition.