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Quinn Signs Bills to Improve Behavioral Health Care

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Quinn Signs Bills to Improve Behavioral Health Care
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Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday signed new laws affecting treatment of behavioral health problems in Illinois.

House Bill 1530, signed at the Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health in Hoffman Estates, requires insurance companies to provide parity in coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Insurers are prevented from including additional barriers within their policy, such as financial requirements, treatment limitations and lifetime or annual limits, for treatment of mental, emotional, nervous and substance abuse disorders if no such stipulation exists for other health conditions.

"When we talk about access to health care, we want to make sure that we are including all types of care," Quinn said in a press release. "No one should be forced to forgo critical mental health care because of where they live or because their insurance charges more for the necessary treatment."

Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Sen. Willie Delgado (D-Chicago) sponsored the bill. The new guidelines come at the recommendation of the Governor's Health Care Reform Implementation Council.

Another measure -- HB 2084 -- creates a task force to develop a plan for state mental health and developmental disabilities services.

The strategic plan will aim to reduce regulatory redundancy, improve access to care, ensure quality of care in all setting and ensure hospital and institutional care, meeting existing demands and those that will arise in the future.

The bills align with the prevention-focused goals of the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP), calling for Illinois to improve access to comprehensive health-related services, enhance data and information technology in the health care sectors, address the social factors affecting health and health disparities, manage and improve the public health system and ensure sufficient work force in the health care and public health fields.

Quinn also signed Senate Bill 1837, which gives the Kane County Mental Health Court the authority to work with accredited mental health service providers to provide necessary services to defendants.

It requires the court to assess its effectiveness and submit reports on its impact on reducing the number of mentally ill admitted into the state's correctional system. The health court was launched in Feb. 2006 to reduce future criminal activity and improve public safety.

Also signed was HB 1317, which will assist individuals with serious behavioral disorders and other disabilities by excusing them permanently from jury duty. The bill mandates county boards, jury administrators and jury commissioners to create and maintain a list of person to be permanently excluded from jury lists.

House Bills 2084 and 1530 are effective immediately.

House Bills 1317 and Senate Bill 1837 take effect Jan. 1, as does another bill signed a day earlier, HB 2982, which effectively creates Regional Integrated Behavioral Health Networks across Illinois.

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