On April 9, Gov. Pat Quinn announced that Illinois would launch a social impact bond program, an innovative and cutting-edge way to address complex social problems by partnering with private investors, who would provide the upfront financial investment needed to bring effective programs up to scale. "The social innovation model is a unique way to invest in our community priorities without dipping into the pockets of Illinois residents," the governor said.
As president of NAMI BA, I applaud the governor's support of social impact bonds. We hope that Illinois will in the near future utilize them for the mentally ill prisoners who are nonviolent.
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A social impact bond is an investment vehicle designed to encourage private funding for promising social programs. A possible goal for example is to decrease participant's likelihood of future criminal behavior and reincarceration. The public sector commits to paying the contractor only if improved social outcomes are achieved.
The benefits are many: 1) Investing in outcomes to improve the lives of those in need. We must stop the criminalization of mental illness, including Asperger syndrome. 2) The government is able to preserve public resources for successful interventions while still encouraging innovation. 3) Nonprofit providers receive a committed funding stream not subject to budget cuts. 4) Private investors can receive financial returns and they assume the risk and achieve a public good.
A full one-third of the nation's states get a D or F grade for using mental health courts and crisis intervention teams -- diversion programs proven to reduce the criminalization of mental illness. The criminalization of mental illness is nothing less than a national disgrace. I encourage everybody to become more involved in the implementation of these social impact bonds.
Joseph M. Jason
Barrington Area National Alliance on Mental Illness