CHICAGO, Ill. (WMBD) — Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill to help increase the number of individuals working in the mental health field.

Senate Bill 3617 is omnibus legislation aimed at addressing the shortage of mental health professionals in Illinois and increasing access to high-quality mental health services across the state.

The bill temporarily allows professional licensees out of practice for less than five years to reactivate their license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The bill also seeks to expand behavioral health training, incentivizes the hiring of individuals in recovery from substance use disorder or mental illness, and makes it easier for advanced practice registered nurses to treat patients.

“We need a mental healthcare workforce that is robust enough to get people help when they need it—not after months on a waiting list,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I am proud to sign this mental health omnibus bill—training, expanding and diversifying our behavioral health workforce—into law. This legislation invests in mental health infrastructure—and that infrastructure is people. Our therapists. Our social workers. Our crisis counselors. There is nothing more important than investing in the people who support the health and wellbeing of Illinoisans.”

The FY23 state budget, which takes effect July 1, includes a significant investment in mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services that aim to increase access to the behavioral health system in every region of the state.

The legislation removes barriers to those wishing to re-enter the mental health workforce, such as continuing education credit completion, passing additional examinations, and fee payments.

Former license holders must be in good standing to have their licenses reactivated. Mental health professionals out of practice for less than five years may restore their license with IDFPR only once without providing more information to the Department.

In addition, the measure enables advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to conduct any required psychiatric visits to patients in Special Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities, in addition to physicians.

The Recovery and Mental Health Tax Credit is also created under SB 3617, which creates a program to provide tax incentives to qualified employers who employ eligible individuals who are in recovery from a substance use disorder or mental illness. IDHS will work with the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) to verify tax credit certificates issued to employers.

Additionally, the bill allows the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Mental Health to award grants or contracts to enhance training and supervision of behavioral health providers-in-training seeking licensure in specified fields.

IDHS will oversee the application process; grants are subject to appropriations. Additionally, a 15-member Advisory Council will be established to advise DHS, examining mental illness and substance use disorder impacts on employment opportunities within minority communities.