SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Rep. Yehiel “Mark” Kalish, D-Chicago, passed legislation in the House this week that aims to improve mental health treatment and access to treatment by creating a statewide advocate for behavioral health.
“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 or addiction, we can create one more avenue to assist people in receiving treatment.”
Kalish sponsored House Bill 122 which establishes the Office of the Ombudsman for Behavioral Health Access to Care. An Ombudsman is a public official appointed to serve as a neutral, impartial and independent investigator of residents’ complaints regarding potential violations of rights.
The ombudsman created under Kalish’s legislation will work directly with Illinois residents to identify complaints and violations of mental health-related laws and report any violations to the proper regulatory authorities. Additionally, he or she will work with the Department of Insurance (DOI) to create an annual report on the efforts of DOI to ensure that insurers are covering mental health issues similarly to other chronic conditions.
Kalish’s proposal was inspired by similar legislation passed by Kalish’s sister, Colorado state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City. Kalish and Michaelson Jenet are believed to be the first Jewish siblings to concurrently serve in different state legislatures.
“My sister has served as an inspiration to me and I have relied on her as a confidant during my first legislative session—especially while working on this measure,” Kalish said, “This proposal will help improve access and proper mental health treatment in Illinois and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that it is signed into law.”
House Bill 122 passed the House with bipartisan support and is awaiting further action in the Senate.