Sen. Cristina Castro

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) spearheaded a new law to create a program that will help people with serious mental illness or substance use disorders by enabling access to affordable housing and support services.

“Supporting those struggling the most in our communities is a top priority,” Castro said. “Taking a ‘Housing First’ approach to mental illness and addiction treatment will ensure that those most vulnerable are treated with dignity and compassion.”

Often, people with a serious mental illness or substance use disorder lack affordable housing, causing increased institutionalization, incarceration or risk of death from an overdose. This law creates the Housing is Recovery Pilot Program to help prevent people with a serious mental illness or people who are at high risk of overdose due to lack of support services from being institutionalized or dying.

The program utilizes a “Housing First” model, which prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, ensuring a stable home before allowing them to address other issues they might have.

“Housing instability is a primary contributor to incarceration, institutionalization, and even overdose for those with chronic mental illness or substance use disorders,” said State Representative Kathleen Willis (D- Northlake), who is the House sponsor of the bill. “To address these inequities within our current system, we put forward and passed a bill to provide a pathway out for those at risk of institutionalization or homelessness. Leveraging resources to improve recovery and health outcomes is our highest priority as part of this effort.” 

The program would be under the Division of Mental Health of the Department of Human Services and would enable affordable housing through the use of a bridge rental subsidy combined with access to recovery support services or treatment.

House Bill 449 was signed by Governor Pritzker on Friday.