IL Partners Executive Director Lauren was quoted extensively in an article headlined “Lake County mental health providers battling staffing shortages linked to low wages, large caseloads and burnout.”

Lauren was featured alongside coalition partners Janelle Moravek of Youth and Family Counseling and Mark Ishaug of Thresholds

Here are key points Lauren shared.

“State reimbursements are a large source of funding for community mental health services, but reimbursement rates lag behind the consumer price index (CPI), and fail to cover the full cost of service, said Lauren Wright, executive director of Illinois Partners for Human Services.

“There is a structural and systemic inequity piece that connects directly to the way our society, and specifically in our experience the state of Illinois, values these kinds of services,” Wright said.

Illinois pays some of the lowest rates in the country for Medicaid Managed Care reimbursement systems for mental health services, according to a 2021 reimbursement rate study by Illinois Partners for Human Services.

Of the mental health services assessed by the study, 90% would need reimbursement rate increases of between 10% and 20% to align with the 2021 consumer price index.

“When you think about building a road, which is a public good, the state contracts with some construction company to build the road,” Wright said. “That construction company is not holding a bake sale to cover the remaining cost of what it takes for their workers to build that road. They get a fair contract that the state covers the actual cost of doing those services.

“If the state was valuing (mental health services) in that way, then they would have contracts that actually cover the full cost of delivering those services,” she continued. “This is the perpetual bind that folks are in now.”

Reimbursements from the state rarely cover the full cost of service, Wright said, and are not allowed to cover non-direct service costs, such as transportation, front and back office expenses, administrative costs associated with billing and more.

“Ultimately, in the end, having good wages and having good benefits requires substantial investment and flexibility from the state when it comes to valuing these services with community-based providers,” Wright said.”

The three spoke with reporter Chloe Hilles of the Lake County News-Sun, a Chicago Tribune paper. Subscribers can read the full article here.


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