Local State Representative Pushes for Statewide Mental Health Advocate

By Eden Nissani

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Last month, an important piece of legislation benefiting the behavioral health community passed the Illinois House and is currently in the Senate, with Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview) taking the lead in her chamber. House Bill 122, Chief Sponsored by State Representative Yehiel “Mark” Kalish (D-Chicago), would create the Office of Ombudsman for Behavioral Health Access to Care.

“While strides have been made in recent years to reduce the stigma of mental health and improve access to treatment, there is more work to be done,” Kalish said. “By creating a statewide advocate to help those who are struggling with mental health or addiction, we can create one more avenue to assist people in receiving treatment.”

The Ombudsman would serve as an impartial mediator between mental health patients in Illinois and their insurance companies. The office will also assist patients to better utilize their benefits.

Moreover, the office will identify and track complaints and/or violations of mental health-related laws, and be responsible for reporting those to the appropriate regulatory agencies. This will enable consumers to hold insurers accountable while maintaining compliance.

“By having this bill pass the House,” Kalish explains, “and especially with Senator Fine as Chief Sponsor in the Senate, we were able to draw in various stakeholders who are working together to perfect the language of this legislation to ensure its success.”  While it might take a bit longer, Kalish is certain that upon the improvement of language, the bill will pass successfully by end of next session.

Kalish drew his inspiration for this bill from his sister, Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Commerce City), who serves in the Colorado General Assembly and spearheaded similar legislation in the past.

“If signed into law, HB122 would finally provide behavioral health patients with a clearer path to navigate the often obscure healthcare system.” Kalish said.

Kalish presides over the 16th House district which encompasses the 50th Ward, as well as parts of Skokie, Morton Grove, and Lincolnwood.

 

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