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Statehouse measure aims to increase the number of mental health workers | Granite City News






State lawmakers are seeking to make it easier for out-of-state mental health clinicians to get licensed with a bill ready to go to the governor’s office.

Senate Bill 3617 also suspends requirements for social workers, professional counselors and clinical psychologists with licenses that have been inactive for five years. The measure, which was passed unanimously by the Illinois House and Senate, also includes grants to help provide resources such as beds for residential mental health treatment centers.

Since 2020, mental health issues have been on the rise, especially among young people, after many children were left indoors and away from others during the pandemic.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visits related to mental health have increased by 24% since 2020 for children aged 5 to 11, while visits by children aged 12 to 17 have increased by 31%.

As the number of mental health-related issues increases in Illinois, the number of medical professionals has dropped dramatically, according to Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview.

“We are in a behavioral health workforce crisis,” Fine said. “Hospitals will tell you that even if they have empty beds, they can’t fill them because they don’t have the qualified professionals to work with these patients.”

Randy Wells, vice president of mental health policy at the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, explained what this bill can do to help mental health facilities.

“He’s talking about getting people into the workforce and getting people to college faster,” Wells said. “This is not an academic exercise. This brings us to the issue of labor at the community supplier level.”

Fine said it was time to start treating mental health issues with the same support and treatment as other illnesses.

“In Illinois, we want to make sure that mental health and physical health are considered one and the same, because you really can’t have one without the other,” Fine said.

SB3617 can now be sent to the governor.

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