(TASC) – Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) has issued its second Health & Justice Legislative Scorecard, a tally of how Illinois state lawmakers voted on selected bills responding to community needs and advancing health and justice.
The review of General Assembly votes revealed that 41 senators and 80 representatives—a 22 percent overall increase from the organization’s inaugural scorecard in 2019—voted in favor of these health and justice initiatives at least 80 percent of the time, earning a place on TASC’s 2021 Illinois Legislative Honor Roll for Advancing Health and Justice.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued through 2021, the number of individuals dealing with substance use disorders and/or mental health conditions increased, and timely access to behavioral health services became critical. Equally vital are public policies that support and enable equitable access to services for vulnerable populations. During the 2021 legislative session, many members voted for bills that make improvements to the justice system and the field of behavioral health services.
The scorecard details bills which were legislative priorities for TASC and tracks how each individual member voted on these bills. Examples include allowing individuals with felony drug convictions to be eligible for cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, temporary housing subsidies for individuals with severe mental illness at high risk of institutionalization and people with substance use disorders (SUD) at high risk of overdose, and requirements for each 9-1-1 call center and provider of emergency services dispatched through a 9-1-1 system to coordinate with the mobile mental and behavioral health services established by the Department of Human Services (DHS).
It also features TASC’s 2021 Legislative Champion Award presented to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, for its work seeking to dismantle systemic racism, including reforms in four key pillars of Illinois government: criminal justice; education and workforce development; economic access, equity, and opportunity; and health care and human services. These legislative pillars serve as a critical starting point to bring more equitable structures, services, and programs to communities that have been historically marginalized.
“The COVID-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on inequities embedded within our behavioral health and justice systems,” said Joel K. Johnson, TASC president and CEO. “Although we seek to celebrate legislators who voted to address these issues, our work remains unfinished.”
TASC is a statewide, non-profit organization that serves and advocates for people involved in criminal legal systems and youth and family service systems, and who have substance use and mental health disorders. TASC’s public policy work is informed by on-the-ground experience working with thousands of people across Illinois, as well as by research and data on effective and racially and economically equitable practices in justice and healthcare.