Addressing the Behavioral Health Workforce Crisis in Illinois

According to some estimates, Illinois has only 13.8 behavioral health care professionals for every 10,000 residents which translates to over 4.8 million Illinois residents living in a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area. This shortage has real effects on Illinoisans. It threatens access to care, increases hospital stays, and contributes to an overuse of the legal system.

The workforce shortage was made worse during the COVID-19 emergency by adding pressure to safety net services for some of the most vulnerable. The Community Mental Health System and State- Operated Psychiatric Hospitals struggle to recruit and retain staff, jeopardizing services for Illinoisans.

DMH is strategizing with state agencies, community mental health providers, and higher education partners to address the Behavioral Health Workforce Crisis.

Short - Mid Term Goals

DMH heard from our community partners that student loan repayment is one of the most important tools to recruit and retain staff. Using cannabis funds, DHS is implementing a student loan repayment program targeting bachelor and master degree level providers. This program will launch in early 2022.

Training and certification for persons with lived mental health expertise. DMH launched over $8 million in grant funding for higher education institutions to recruit and train individuals working towards the Certified Recovery Support Specialist and Certified Peer Recovery Specialist credentials. We anticipate this program will add over 150 new mental health professionals to the system over the next five years.

DMH and DHS are working to establish a new Mental Health Professional (MHP) credential. MHPs represent one the most diverse and dense professional titles in the public mental health workforce. We are developing a new MHP credential to address equity in the workforce and add over 500 new professionals over the next five years.

Long Term Goals

BH Workforce Center

Authorized by the IL Health Care and Human Service Reform Act, DHS will fund and collaborate with the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Center. With an initial investment of $6 Million, one higher education institution will use a "hub and spoke" model to partner with other institutions across the state with a goal of researching and identifying specific interventions that give IL the behavioral health workforce it needs.