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Illinois Mental Health Services Guide

Many people don't realize that publicly-funded mental health services are available in their state. People looking for free or low-cost counseling often think their only options are counselors in private practice and don't know that publicly-funded providers in their communities may also offer counseling services. 

 

While state-based programs are not for everyone, they are often a great place to start for people who face geographic or financial barriers to therapy. Intake specialists at community mental health programs can help people learn whether they qualify for state-funded services and can refer people who don't qualify to other low-cost programs that may be able to meet their needs.

 


 

When Should You Go to a State Mental Health Program?

Community mental health programs are often the best option people who are in crisis and need help right away. The people who answer county and regional crisis lines can help determine the best response to a crisis, whether it's inpatient treatment or an appointment with a counselor. 


Community mental health programs ensure that people who lack the means to access services in the private sector can receive the mental health care they need. This means people who have limited income should consider inquiring first with public providers. With the introduction of BHCs and the allocation of funds to programs for people with more moderate needs, the Illinois public mental health system is growing more inclusive. Even people who don't qualify for public funds can often still access affordable services from publicly-funded programs that offer sliding scale fees.


In many cases, county phone lines and online search tools are a great starting point for anyone looking for local mental health services in Illinois. People who try these tools and still aren't finding what they need can search for free or low-cost counselors on OpenCounseling.com or try affordable online counseling through BetterHelp (a sponsor).


Mental Health America currently ranks Illinois 11 out of 51 states (Washington, DC, is included as a state) for quality of mental health care and 18 out of 51 states for access to mental health care. Even so, 55 percent of people in Illinois who have a mental health condition don't get treatment, often because they don't know accessible options are available nearby. If you're living in Illinois and need mental health care, it's worth taking the time to learn about options in your area—the help you need may only be a phone call or a click away.

 

Who Is Eligible for Public Mental Health Services in Illinois?

Because Illinois contracts with public and private agencies that have their own eligibility requirements, eligibility for publicly-funded mental health services varies from provider to provider. In many cases, when people who seek mental health services at a publicly-funded program in Illinois don't qualify for funding assistance, they can still qualify to receive the services. Some programs offer fee assistance or sliding scales to people who don't qualify for financial assistance from the state.


The Department of Mental Health reimburses people who meet financial and clinical eligibility criteria for medically necessary mental health care. To receive public funding for mental health services in Illinois, a person must belong to one of three eligibility groups:


  • People who have a qualifying mental health diagnosis and are eligible for Medicaid
  • People who are not eligible for Medicaid but have severe mental health conditions that affect their ability to function independently and that put them at risk of hospitalization
  • People who are not eligible for Medicaid but who have a mental health condition and are in a crisis that requires an immediate response


Publicly-funded crisis lines and crisis intervention services throughout the state are available to anyone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. People with severe mental health conditions qualify for a range of other publicly-funded services including case management. In many cases, agencies that receive public funds operate on an ethic of access to care and will work with people who have moderate mental health conditions but who don't qualify for Medicaid by assessing them a sliding scale fee or accepting private insurance plans.

 

How Can You Find Out More About Local Programs in Illinois?

The best way to find out whether you qualify for services at a publicly-funded mental health program in Illinois is to contact that program directly. People who answer regional crisis lines can often inform people about local treatment options even when they are not in crisis.

Illinois divides its public mental health system into five regions. Region 1 includes Chicago and the rest of Cook County, while the other five service regions cover over a dozen counties each:

 

Illinois' Mental Health Clinics and Access Numbers

  • Region 1 (northern Illinois): Cook County
  • Region 2 (northern Illinois): Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will, and Winnebago Counties
  • Region 3 (central Illinois): Bureau, Champaign, Ford, Fulton, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Knox, LaSalle, Livingston, Peoria, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Tazewell, Vermillion, Warren, and Woodford Counties
  • Region 4 (central Illinois): Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Greene, Hancock, Jersey, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Piatt, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, and Shelby Counties 
  • Region 5 Metro East (southern Illinois):  Bond, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, and Washington Counties
  • Region 5 South (southern Illinois): Alexander, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Marion, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Richland, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White, and Williamson Counties


If you're not in crisis but want to learn more about services in your region, you can contact your region's Department of Mental Health (DMH) office:


  • Region 1 North: (773) 794-5525 
  • Region 1 Central: (708) 338-7400 or (708) 338-7021 or (708) 338-7202
  • Region 1 South: (708) 338-7289 or (708) 614-4002 or (312) 793-1636
  • Region 2: (847) 742-1040 
  • Region 3: (309) 346-2094
  • Region 4: (217) 786-6058 or (217) 786-6866
  • Region 5 Metro East: (618) 474-3812 or (618) 474-3348
  • Region 5 South: (618) 833-8266 or (618) 833-5161 x2321


You can also call the Illinois Warm Line at (866) 359-7953. The Warm Line is designed for people who are not in crisis but who need to talk to someone. The staff who answer the Warm Line help people find emotional support, learn more about recovery, and obtain referrals to community services. It's available Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm.


Another way to find out about publicly-funded providers in your area is to use the Office Locator search tool on the Illinois Department of Human Services website. Select "Mental Health" as the Office Type and then select your local county to see a list of providers serving people who live there. A list of publicly-funded crisis and adult outpatient providers in Illinois is included below.


Region One


Region One programs serve Chicago, its suburbs, and all of Cook County.



Region Two


Region Two programs serve 17 counties in northern Illinois: Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will, and Winnebago.



Region Three


Region Three programs serve 23 counties in central Illinois: Bureau, Champaign, Ford, Fulton, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Knox, LaSalle, Livingston, Peoria, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Tazewell, Vermillion, Warren, and Woodford.



Region Four


Region Four programs serve 28 counties in central Illinois: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Greene, Hancock, Jersey, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Piatt, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, and Shelby.

 


Region Five


Region Five programs serve 33 counties in Southern Illinois: Alexander, Bond, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, Saline, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson.



Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are another option for public mental health care in Illinois. These federally-funded programs provide high-quality coordinated medical and mental health care to people in underserved communities. Each FQHC accepts Medicaid and Medicare and offers sliding scale fees to people without insurance. You can search for FQHCs using the online search tool on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. 

 

How Does Illinois' Public Mental Health System Work?

In the 1960s, Americans started thinking differently about how to treat mental health conditions. New laws required state and local governments to establish community mental health programs as alternatives to institutionalization for people with serious mental illness. Many states' public mental health programs trace their origins back to this period. Illinois is no exception. After Congress passed the federal Community Mental Health Act in 1963, the Illinois legislature passed its own Community Mental Health Act in 1967. Like similar laws passed in other states, it established the foundation for a statewide network of community-based mental health services. 


Illinois state law now splits community mental health programs into two different program types: community mental health centers (CMHCs) and behavioral health clinics (BHCs). Both CMHCs and BHCs receive state and federal funds to provide mental health safety net services, but BHCs provide a narrower range of services. While CMHCs focus on providing services to people with severe mental health conditions, BHCs focus on people with moderate mental health care needs. Both CMHCs and BHCs can provide outpatient services like therapy.

The purpose of the public mental health system in Illinois is to make sure that people can receive essential mental health services even when they do not have the ability to pay for them. State and county agencies fund a range of public and private programs that help people with mental health conditions live independently in the community. Publicly-funded programs provide a range of inpatient and outpatient mental health services including crisis intervention, case management, psychosocial rehabilitation, and therapy. 


The Illinois public mental health system was significantly impacted by the national recession in 2008 and the long period of state budget and political conflicts that followed. From 2009 to 2012, Illinois cut over $113 million in funding from its public mental health programs, resulting in the closures of many CMHCs, mental health clinics, and specialty agencies and programs across the state. At the height of this period, even many crisis lines and crisis response programs, which are some of the most essential services in any state's mental health safety net, were permanently or temporarily closed. Pressure mounted on jails and hospital emergency departments to function as the mental health safety net. Cook County Jail has since become the biggest mental health service provider in the state.


These cuts have had a lasting impact on the delivery of public mental health services in Illinois. Many county mental health departments that used to directly provide essential services like case management and crisis intervention now contract these services to private agencies. Many large programs have closed. In counties that no longer have county crisis lines, residents call crisis lines operated by regional agencies instead.


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