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Feds OK Illinois Expansion of Medicaid Mental Health Coverage


Three million Illinois Medicaid users will soon have more access to mental health and substance abuse treatments. Officials in Washington, D.C., OK’d a new state program that sets aside about $2 billion in Medicaid funds for the services.

If you’re someone who uses Medicaid, you’re covered if you go to the doctor’s office or hospital when you get physically sick. But if you have a mental health issue like depression, for example, and want a counselor to come visit you at home, it’s a different story.

Healthcare and Family Services Director Felicia Norwood says that’ll change with the new program. Money will now be set aside to help people pay for things like in-home counseling and  addiction recovery.

“Mental health, behavioral health is something that impacts everyone in our state. It knows no geography, young and old.”

The move is part of the Rauner administration’s effort to spend Medicaid dollars on less-expensive outpatient services. Governor Rauner himself says expanding those kinds of treatments will set the state apart.

“We’re going to become national leaders in the way mental health services are provided to the residents of our state," he explained. "We’re going to become much more proactive in preventive health services and community-based health services.”

The administration says Illinois spends more than 50 percent of its Medicaid budget annually on people who need mental health treatment. The new program, called Better Care Illinois, will cover treatments in 10 different pilot programs as early as July.

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.