ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker took some time on Wednesday to talk about mental health during his State of the State address.
Pritzker’s budget proposal includes $140 million in additional funding for the issue. Local mental health providers said that it all comes down to access and that the funding means more hiring, and ultimately more lives saved.
“This increased funding will really help people access treatment and we’ll be able to make sure that more people can get access to mental health and addiction treatment,” said Kelly Epperson, vice president and general counsel of Rosecrance.
Epperson reacted after Pritzker unveiled the funding for mental health.
“With this investment, those people can now get help. There will be more access, and so this investment from a state wide perspective will bring funding directly to the Rockford region,” she said. “We’ve seen with the pandemic there has been an increase in overdose deaths, an increase in anxiety and an increase in depression.”
The pandemic has exposed a shortage in the mental health care work force, according to Epperson.
“This investment in behavioral health care, with increased funding and increased recognition of the need for treatment, will really allow Rosecrance to hire more staff and increase access to treatment,” Epperson said.
Pritzker also announced the addition of a Chief Behavioral Health Officer to his office, and Epperson believes that the new position will help normalize mental health services.
“Destigmatize behavioral health care and recognize that everybody needs treatment and has needs, and so this commitment and this investment in behavioral health care will really help people get the help, you know, get the treatment that they need,” Epperson said. “Once you take that first step, our trained clinicians, our experts in the field can really help people get better and treat these conditions, and so they can live a full life.”
Pritzker has also earmarked $70 million towards the new 988 Crisis Response Call Center. The hotline will provide services for mental health issues and is expected to be up and running by this summer.