Behavioral health providers call on Pritzker to provide $120 million for workforce challenges

Behavioral health providers want Gov. JB Pritzker to steer $120 million in state and federal funds their way to address a workforce crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Jud DeLoss said a majority of his members have had to cut back this year on treatments and services due to inadequate staffing levels. He said the issue took root before the pandemic. 

As recently as 2019, the association said the state had only about a quarter of the behavioral healthcare professionals it needed in designated shortage regions. 

“Behavioral health providers need this cash injection by Dec. 1 and they need it without unnecessary new programs, grant applications or complex red tape,” DeLoss plans to tell lawmakers Friday during a subject hearing initiated by his group, according to testimony provided ahead of time. 

To help finance workforce retention and recruitment, DeLoss called on Pritzker to direct $50 million to behavioral health providers from funding the state received from the American Rescue Plan Act for mental health funds, as well another $54 million from federal COVID-19 money for substance use disorders. He said Pritzker could also draw upon $40 million in recreational cannabis tax revenues allocated for mental health and substance use disorders. 

“The accelerating and dramatic loss of Illinois behavioral health workers – administrative and clinical staff alike – and a dwindling ability to recruit new workers by community health providers in your districts is why I am before this Committee today: to ask for your help to defuse the workforce shortage crisis,” said DeLoss in written testimony to be delivered on Friday. “We are asking the Pritzker Administration to release $120 million for recruitment and retention efforts by behavioral healthcare providers by December 1.”