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Illinois Lawmaker LaPointe Named Pioneer Award Winner

Dean Creasie Finney Hairston with Rep. Lindsey LaPointe

Illinois State Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-19) was named the recipient of the 2024 Pioneer Award, the most prestigious honor presented by the University of Illinois Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work.

The Pioneer Award is bestowed on a graduate who has made significant, pioneering, or standout contributions to a community, state, or nation consistent with the mission of the Jane Addams College of Social Work.

“My social work orientation guides me every day, both in the neighborhood and in Springfield,” LaPointe said. “It’s not only the issues I focus on, like seeing mental health care as healthcare and raising up our endemically low human service worker wages. But it’s also my approach, like ensuring all voices have a seat at the table, growing the table, and staying focused on full implementation for lasting change.”

A 2011 graduate of the JACSW, LaPointe was appointed to the Illinois House on July 24, 2019, to serve the remainder of outgoing representative Robert Martwick’s term after he was named state senator of Illinois’ 10th district. She subsequently ran for a full two-year term in 2020 and was re-elected to a second term in 2022. LaPointe is running for re-election for a third term in the district on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

As a social worker, LaPointe has more than a decade of direct practice experience, providing support to children with special needs, adults with disabilities, and senior citizens in need of help before shifting into policy work. She is a former project manager of justice reform at Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), and former program manager of Adult Redeploy Illinois at the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

As a lawmaker, she transformed social work in Illinois by initiating House Bill 2365, making the path to licensed social work more accessible by providing an alternative to the licensure exam, focusing instead on education, field work, experience, and supervision.

Chairing the House’s Mental Health and Addiction Committee, LaPointe has sponsored numerous legislation to create awareness of the workforce crisis impacting access to behavioral health services. She introduced House Bill 4475 that encourages more behavioral health providers to enroll in commercial insurance networks, reducing the costs for some seeking their services. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and awaits action in the Senate.

In a Chicago Tribune interview, LaPointe said state intervention is necessary to correct discriminatory insurance practices and make behavioral health care more widely attainable. The bill sets a minimum percentage for behavioral health professionals to be reimbursed for care covered by state-regulated commercial insurance plans, which represent about 40% of all commercial insurance plans in Illinois. The bill also addresses other issues that affect accessibility of behavioral health services, she said.

Heather O’Donnell, senior vice president of public policy and advocacy at Thresholds, a Chicago-based organization that provides services and resources for individuals with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders in Illinois, said in a nominating letter that “Rep. LaPointe is a true champion for social workers and the entire behavioral health field.

“More importantly, she is deeply dedicated to making sure that those who need care are able to get it, particularly individuals impacted by racial and income inequality.”

In addition to the Mental Health and Addiction Committee, LaPointe also serves on four other committees: Human Services (vice chair); Health and Human Services; Housing; and Veterans Affairs.

Prior to her election to the state’s General Assembly, LaPointe developed an original justice reform agenda designed to reduce incarceration levels in Illinois, reduce recidivism and improve re-entry outcomes. In 2018, she led the development and passage of a state bill to expand Adult Redeploy Illinois Eligibility, and that same year she assisted in the passage of a state bill to create parole opportunities for youth under age 21 at the time when a crime was committed. She also developed a component of adult recreational cannabis legalization bill in 2019.

LaPointe currently sits on the JACSW’s Dean’s Advisory Council for Diversity, Equity and Social Inclusion, and is the former vice president of the board of directors of Hands to Help Ministries. A native of Portland, Maine, LaPointe received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Grinnell College.