Advocacy and Public Policy

A critical part of carrying out MHAI’s mission is to advocate for better and more adequate treatment for persons with mental illness.

MHAI develops and supports policy positions on key mental health issues working with legislators, state agencies and other not-for-profit groups to advocate for improved policies. Each year, MHAI develops policy priorities that are determined by our Board of Directors and carried out primarily through the work of the Public Policy Committee.

MHAI’s Public Policy Committee includes board members, staff, advocacy partners, providers and other outside experts who help determine strategies and tactics to implement MHAI’s legislative priorities.

State Advocacy

The Public Policy Committee reviews all legislation affecting mental health issues introduced in the Illinois legislature.  MHAI frequently presents written and oral testimony supporting or opposing mental health legislation. MHAI takes a leading role in organizing an annual Mental Health Rally and Education Day in Springfield each May coordinating logistics for more than 1,600 consumers, family members, advocates and providers. MHAI also helps to organize a Mental Health Rally in downtown Chicago each Fall.

Additionally, MHAI takes the lead role in drafting advocacy materials, including sample letters and position papers which consumers, providers and other advocates use to communicate to the Illinois legislature. MHAI regularly drafts and obtains passage of mental health legislation.

Successes include:

    • In 2016, MHAI was instrumental in passing the Public Act 99-0761, which requires private health insurance providers to take clinical issues into consideration before they impose “step-therapy” (fail first) requirements on policy holders.
    • In 2015, three bills drafted by MHAI were enacted into law by the Illinois legislature.
    • The first mental health insurance parity law in Illinois.
    • Improvements in the standards and procedures for involuntary medication hearings.
    • Mandatory data collection for inpatient mental health services.
    • Mandatory training for persons participating in commitment hearings.

Federal Advocacy

MHAI works in cooperation with our national partner Mental Health America (MHA) to convince United States senators and representatives to support MHA’s legislative initiatives, including increased federal funding for mental health services and research and federal mental health insurance parity.

To find a list of current mental health issues in Illinois visit the Mental Health Summit website.