Illinois Mental Health Parity Bill Passes House, Moves to Senate

(Springfield) — Illinois Senate Bill 1707, described by the Kennedy Forum Illinois as “the strongest mental health parity law in the nation,” passed the House on May 30 with a 106-9 vote. Sponsored by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang, the bill strengthens parity law, increasing compliance and access to treatment, so that health insurance plans cover mental illness and addictions on par with other medical conditions.

TASC is part of a broad coalition of support for the legislation, which now moves to the Senate for concurrence. Senator Kwame Raoul is the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate.


With thanks for permission to share, below is the May 30 news release from the Kennedy Forum Illinois:

Illinois families and individuals struggling with mental health and addiction challenges won hard-fought victory for better access to services today. On a strong bipartisan vote of 106-9, the Illinois House of Representatives just passed Senate Bill 1707 – the strongest mental health parity law in the nation. The bill now goes onto the Senate for a vote, possibly as soon as today.

SB1707 is the result of a multi-year Kennedy Forum Illinois campaign to improve parity law enforcement so that people with mental health and addiction challenges can access the treatment they need as required by state and federal law. As part of this campaign, The Kennedy Forum Illinois convened an Illinois Parity Implementation Workgroup with nearly 30 member organizations and spearheaded an Illinois provider survey on the frequency of mental health and addiction treatment denials with key partners.

These efforts resulted in numerous media articles on the damage that mental health and addiction coverage discrimination causes, as well as two House Mental Health Committee hearings on parity, including one on how inadequate parity compliance is helping to fuel our state’s ongoing opioid epidemic, which continues to worsen and killed 2,100 last year.

Specifically, this landmark legislation:

  • Tackles the Opioid Crisis by expanding access to life-saving addiction treatment.

    • The bill prohibits prior authorization and step-therapy requirements for FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders;

    • Requires generic FDA-approved medications for substance use disorders to be on lowest-tier of prescription formularies, with branded medications on the lowest tier for branded medications;

    • Prohibits exclusions of prescription coverage and related support services for substance use disorder because they are court ordered, and

    • Requires state regulators to actively ensure plan compliance with parity law utilizing information provided by plans/MCOs and through independent oversight.

  • Increases transparency by requiring health plans to submit parity compliance analyses to the Illinois Dept. of Insurance and the Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services that align with The Kennedy Forum’s six-step process that shows compliance with federal parity rules and requires plans/MCOs to make parity compliance information available to DOI, HFS, and to individuals via a public website.

  • Improves parity enforcement by requiring the Departments to conduct market conduct examinations/parity compliance audits and report on their enforcement activities annually to the General Assembly and requires the Illinois Auditor General to review implementation state parity law and report to the General Assembly.

  • Closes a loophole in state law that allowed school district health plans to discriminate against mental health and addiction coverage.

By improving accountability and transparency, this legislation will increase parity compliance and access to needed treatment. While there remains much work left to do to end coverage discrimination, SB1707 represents a major milestone not just in Illinois, but the country as a whole.

The Kennedy Forum Illinois thanks Rep. Lou Lang for his tireless leadership on mental health and addiction parity, as well as the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health for its partnership in helping to advance this important legislation. Many thanks also to our numerous partners* for their steadfast support.

*Thank You Supporters and Coalition Members!
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Nurses Association-Illinois, American Psychiatric Association, Chicago Urban League, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association, Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance, Family Guidance Centers, Gateway Foundation, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, IARF, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, Illinois Collaboration on Youth, Illinois State Medical Society, Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Live4Lali, NAMI Barrington Area, NAMI Chicago, NAMI Illinois, Rosecrance, Safer Foundation, Smart Policy Works, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, TASC, Thresholds


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2015 Urban Labs Innovation Challenge Winners: TASC, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Heartland Alliance Earn Grant for Supportive Release Center

(Chicago) – The University of Chicago announced the winners of the Urban Labs 2015 Innovation Challenge grants on October 12, including a $1M grant to TASC, the Heartland Alliance, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to support people with mental illness as they are released from the Cook County Jail.

Timothy Knowles, the Pritzker Director of Urban Labs, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the announcement during a Chicago Ideas Week event, which included a panel discussion with WomenOnCall.org founder and President Margot Pritzker, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and host Cheryl Corley of NPR.

The 2015 Urban Labs Innovation Challenge focused on the areas of health, poverty, and energy and the environment. Advisory committees comprising civic leaders, practitioners, funders, and academic experts selected the grant winners from a pool of more than 100 applicants.

The grant will enable the launch of a Supportive Release Center to help individuals with mental illness transition to services in their communities following their release from the Cook County Jail. It also will include rigorous evaluation—conducted by the Health Lab—to empirically examine outcomes and better inform practitioners and policymakers about its effectiveness, cost-efficiency, and potential scalability in the long run.

“We are honored to partner with the University of Chicago Urban Labs, Heartland Alliance, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to develop solutions to the issues faced by people with mental illness who are leaving the jail,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “This will help us create a safe, supportive environment to facilitate access to care. The project also will be closely evaluated, using a random controlled research design, so that it has the potential to become an evidence-based practice that could be replicated nationwide.”

The Urban Labs’ collaborative approach recognizes that many long-term challenges in cities are related, and require unified responses. Public-private partnerships are central to the approach of the project, and in fact Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois already has made a $50,000 commitment toward the Supportive Release Center.

The Cook County Jail admits approximately 100,000 men and women annually. Among the average daily population of 9,000, 20 to 30 percent are estimated to have a mental illness.

The project builds upon other collaborative strategies to improve access to health care for people leaving the jail. These aligned and reinforcing efforts include the Justice and Health Initiative funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the Justice Advisory Council, and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, as well as the planning and pilot project funded by the Michael Reese Health Trust, and the service network innovation collaborative funded by the Polk Bros. Foundation.

For additional coverage of the announcement, see articles in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Inno, DNAChicago, UChicagoNews, and social media posts at #InnovationChallenge.