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  • NASW-IL Staff

NASW-IL Advocacy at Work: Gov Signs Nation-Leading Legislation Expanding Access to Mental Healthcare

Thank you to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, State Senators Laura Fine (D-Glenview) and Robert Peters (D-Chicago), State Representatives Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) and Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), and the support of NASW-Illinois Chapter members—their collective effort resulted in the signing of House Bill 2595 and the Community Emergency Services and Support Act (House Bill 2784) into law on August 25, 2021, establishing forward-thinking mental healthcare infrastructure in Illinois. The NASW-Illinois fully supported these bills and was a key coalition member with The Kennedy Forum on HB 2595.

House Bill 2595 requires medically necessary mental healthcare to be covered by insurance beginning January 1, 2023. House Bill 2784 creates a first responder system that will coordinate 911 and 988 emergency responses when the national 988 mental health crisis line is established in the summer of 2022. This initiative - the first statewide approach of its kind in the nation - aims to reduce arrests for those with mental illnesses who are deserving of a specialist's intervention. Read more from the governor's press release here.

If you want to continue seeing bills like these pass which greatly impact the social work profession, please consider adding strength to our legislative voice by becoming a member today. Find out more about joining NASW here or click here to join.

For a round-up of other bills that the NASW-Illinois Chapter pushed for during the past spring 2021 legislative session as well as other advocacy-related news, click one of the links below:


Reprinted from

Learn More about House Bill 2595 (HB 2595)

To expand access to quality and reliable insurance for mental healthcare, HB 2595 requires every insurer to provide coverage to all medically necessary mental healthcare across the state. This includes the treatment of mental, emotional, nervous or substance use disorders starting January 1, 2023. The legislation requires the Illinois Department of Insurance to file a joint report on mental, emotional, nervous, or substance use condition parity to the General Assembly no later than January 1, 2022.

"Today, Illinois takes a critical step forward toward ending discrimination against people with mental health and substance use disorders—making the promise of equal access to treatment a reality," said former U.S. Rep. and founder of The Kennedy Forum, Patrick J. Kennedy. "With his signature, Governor Pritzker makes Illinois a national leader in holding insurers accountable for following nationally recognized clinical standards of care." "The Governor's signing of HB 2595 further strengthens Illinois' commitment to ensure consumer access to medically necessary treatment of mental, emotional, nervous, or substance use disorders or conditions," said Dana Popish Severinghaus, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance. "The Illinois Department of Insurance was the first state insurance department to administer targeted mental health market conduct exams for companies selling health plans on the ACA Marketplace. We will continue to lead by example to protect Illinoisans, reduce barriers to care, and achieve mental health and substance use disorder parity." "Increasing access to mental health treatment is vital to every Illinoisan, especially now, when the crisis has been made worse by the pandemic," State Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview) said. "This law will ensure families can more easily seek treatment for mental, emotional, nervous or substance use disorders without worrying about insurance coverage."

"Our communities are facing mental health and addiction crisis that is only worsening," Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park). "This legislation will increase access to mental health treatment, giving people with mental health and substance use disorders that ability to access treatment sooner and get on the road to recovery. House Bill 2595 is effective January 1, 2023.

Learn More About House Bill 2784 (HB 2784)

The Community Emergency Services and Support Act - also known as the Stephon Edwards Watts Act - requires all Illinois municipalities to coordinate 911 and 988 services, with the goal of prioritizing community care over incarceration or improper use of force when it comes to mental or behavioral health emergencies. When an individual is dispatched through a 911 system, HB 2784 ensures that an appropriate mobile response is available, requiring 911 call center operators to coordinate with a mobile mental and behavioral health services, established by the Illinois Department of Human Service's Division of Mental Health (DMH). "Thank you, Governor Pritzker, for signing HB 2784. This new law will provide all Illinois residents with the community care and compassion they need when dealing with mental and behavioral health emergencies," said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services. "IDHS and our Division of Mental Health (DMH) will provide training and guidance to mobile health units and police officers, so they are equipped and ready to respond to these extremely important emergencies and life events."

The DMH helps individuals with mental illnesses recover and participate fully in community life. Under this law, DMH will provide guidance on coordinating mobile units, when responding to an individual who is experiencing a crisis. The Division will also establish regional advisory committees in each Emergency Medical Services (EMS) region to advise on mental and behavioral health emergency response systems. To ensure lasting change, the law requires appropriate responder training, which helps train police officers when responding to mental health emergencies. "It's painful to imagine experiencing a mental health crisis and being put in the care of someone who doesn't have proper training instead of being connected with someone that can actually provide the proper help that is so desperately needed," said State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago). "That often causes a lot of anger and frustration during an already vulnerable situation. Today, with the signing of House Bill 2784, we can feel confident that people who are going through a mental health emergency will be treated by mental and behavioral health professionals. With policies like this, Illinois is leading the country in building treatment over trauma." "With Governor Pritzker's signature today, Illinois continues to lead the nation with progressive polices that will make a real difference in our constituents' lives," Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). "True public safety comes from making the best use of resources and applying them appropriately. I am incredibly thankful to the Watts family for turning their tragedy into meaningful change for communities. HB 2784 is effective January 1, 2022.


The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with over 120,000 members. The NASW-Illinois Chapter is one of the association's largest chapters representing over 20.000 licensed Illinois social workers and school social workers, with over 5,000 active members. NASW strives to advance social work careers, grow social work businesses, and protect the profession.

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