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Tuesday, May 1

Legislation/Social Policy

Sandy Mills, EdD, LCSW, ACSW, Public Policy Consultant

March was a busy, exciting month for social work in Springfield. The Governor gave his budget address on March 7th. His office extended an invitation to Joel L. Rubin and me to attend the address and be seated in a special view­ing room. We then attended the Departmental briefings for DCFS and DHS. The two MSW students who are interning in the Chapter office, Elizabeth Franklin and Patiya Freely accompanied us to the briefings. Though the budgets were not cut for these Administra­tive Agencies, they did not include cost of doing business increases for the providers contracting with the State.

BILL STATUS:

Following the NASW Illinois Chapter’s extremely well attended Lobby Day (page 5), legislators signed onto and moved NASW Illinois Chapter’s 3 major bills. Our licensure sunset removal bills, SB128, sponsored by Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) and Senators Demuzio (D-Carlin­ville), Delgado (D-Chicago), and Radogno (R-Lemont), and HB129, sponsored by Representative Savi­ano (R-River Grove), Coulson (R-Glenview), Granberg (D-Cen­tralia), Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), and Jakobsson (D-Champaign) were both amended and moved out of committees in their respec­tive chambers. The bills have dif­ferent language and will need to be resolved. However, both would reauthorize the Social Work and Clinical Social Work Licensure Act until 2018. The bills can be viewed at http://www.ilga.gov (the bill language does not reflect the entire Social Work Licensure Act). As of March 29th, both bills were on 3rd reading waiting for the vote to be taken in the respective chambers.

The bill that would reimburse LCSWs in all settings for mental health services to Medicaid recipi­ents, SB1739, sponsored by Sena­tors Delgado and Radogno, received its first hearing in the Senate where it was assigned to the Senate Human Services Committee chaired by Senator Carol Ronen. You may recall that NASW Illinois has been trying to pass this bill for over six years. Senator Delgado passed Social Work Medicaid legisla­tion three times when he was a State Representative. However, the bills never received a hearing in the senate. In 2005 Delgado passed HR220 which created an 18 member task force to study the issue of reimbursing LCSWs in all settings. The report was presented to the Illinois General Assembly leaders and to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services and the Director of Health Care and Family Services in March 2006.

This year, under the continued dili­gence of first-term Senator Delgado and the influence of veteran Senator Radogno, I was able to testify and fully educate the Senate committee members on the issue of expanding access to mental health services for Medicaid recipients through using the services of Licensed Clinical Social Workers. The Senators asked excellent questions and thoroughly discussed the issue. They then voted unanimously to move SB 1739 to the full Senate for a vote. We picked up three new sponsors: Senators Collins (D-Chicago), Martinez (D-Chicago), and Crotty (D-Oak Forest) and the bill passed the Senate with no opposition on March 21st. It was then picked up in the House by Representative Kathy Ryg (D-Vernon Hills), who will be the House sponsor for SB1739. Representative Beth Coulson (R-Glenview) who co-sponsored all 3 of our House bills and HR220 with Representative Delgado has agreed to be the Republican co-sponsor of SB1739. Over 25 advocacy and social work groups are supporting SB1739. Advocates for children’s mental health are especially strong allies. The Ounce of Prevention Fund submitted written testimony in the Senate and was prepared to provide oral testimony.

Senator Delgado has also champi­oned Student Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers going into child wel­fare. He has committed to asking that $2 million be included in the final State Budget to begin funding the Child Welfare Loan Forgiveness Act which he and Senator Iris Marti­nez passed two years ago. Governor Blagojevich signed the bill into law but it has never been funded.

NASW Illinois is also actively involved in supporting and moni­toring a number of bills covering a variety of human service issues. We participate in coalitions dealing with health care, child abuse and neglect, choice, school services, child care, mental health, disabili­ties, poverty, human rights, etc.

By the time you read this we should know the final status of our Licensure Sunset and Medicaid Reimbursement bills. The budget

will not be resolved until late May with rumors running rampant that the Governor may keep the General Assembly in session through the summer until his health insurance proposal is accepted and funded. He is reportedly extremely dedi­cated to the health care issue which NASW Illinois supports. However, the funding mechanism – a tax on gross receipts (GRT) for businesses that make over $1 million – has been very controversial.

ACTION NEEDED:

We need NASW members to show their appreciation to our bill spon­sors and to the committee mem­bers of Senate Licensed Activities (SB128), Senate Human Services (SB1739), and House Registration and Regulation (HB129) for their support of our bills. You will find names and contact information at www.ilga.gov.

Posted on 05/01/07 at 10:55 AM (0) Comments

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