Kittleman Blog

Placement Spotlight: Mark Ishaug

Monday, December 4, 2023

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Mark Ishaug

Mark Ishaug has always had a passion for serving vulnerable populations. Over twenty years of his career were dedicated to advocating for people living with HIV and AIDS, building coordinated systems of care, helping to stem the spread of new infections, and removing barriers to access for treatment.

It seemed like kismet when Mark was contacted about an opportunity that he now describes as “the greatest gift of my life.” After two decades of fulfilling work with HIV and AIDs nonprofits, Mark was thinking about the next step in his journey when Kittleman’s Chairman Rick King reached out to him. Rick was partnering with an organization called Thresholds in their search for a new CEO, and he knew that Mark’s leadership experience fighting for resources and change alongside this community made him a great fit for the role.

Although he had not heard of Thresholds before his conversation with Rick, Mark was immediately intrigued. Thresholds provides services and resources for persons with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders in Illinois. Operating under the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to live an independent, healthy life, Thresholds provides healthcare and housing for thousands of people in the state each year.

Expanding Hope

Fast forward to present day, where Mark has been CEO of Thresholds for nearly 12 years, leading the organization through growth initiatives and driving a culture that embraces change, innovation, and transparency. Under his leadership, Thresholds has doubled in size--both in staff and budget—expanding the organization’s reach and influence. Thresholds serves over 8,000 people in Chicago and its metropolitan area each year.

Meeting the needs of Thresholds clients requires creative, empathetic solutions. In 2022, Mark and his team launched the Thresholds Mobile Crisis Response Unit (MCRT), which provides access to emergency mental health intervention by Thresholds clinicians in clients’ own communities, reducing emergency police response and hospital visits.

In the past year, Mark helped spearhead the launch of Thresholds Health, a full-service community health center combating health disparities in Chicago’s Austin community, in addition to securing $4 million annually in federal funding for four Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.

“We consistently see that the need for high-quality, wide-ranging mental health services outstrips our capacity, so we’re always evolving, doing more and different things to try to meet that need,” explains Mark.

Leading With Love, Kindness, and Compassion

According to Mark, leading with “love, kindness, and compassion plus business acumen” are the key ingredients in what he calls “the not-so-secret sauce to our success.” This philosophy has helped grow and sustain Thresholds over the last decade and has garnered consistent recognition from the community. This past May, Mark was named one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ 2023 Notable Health Care Leaders, and Thresholds has been awarded Chicago Tribune’s 2023 Top Workplaces for ten consecutive years.

Outside of Thresholds, Mark is a resolute civic leader. He has played a critical role in statewide efforts to increase Illinois’ Medicaid, mental health, and substance use treatment funding by $200 million, allowing organizations across Illinois to further invest in life-saving services. As part of his mission to make healthcare more accessible for everyone, Mark has served on the National Council for Mental Wellbeing Board of Directors. He is a Trustee of Dominican University, and actively engaged with the Economic Club of Chicago and Leadership Greater Chicago.

Professional Journey Support

Reflecting on the interview process at Thresholds, Mark says he has fond memories of working with Rick and his colleagues at Kittleman.

“Kittleman is hired by the board and is working on behalf of the board, but they care about the candidates too,” he says. “They treat you with respect, transparency and honesty.”

Mark recalls feeling extremely confident going into the final interview process thanks to the feedback and guidance Kittleman provided.

“Rick encouraged me to present my most authentic self. My journey to Thresholds would not have been as positive without his support.”

Kittleman & Associates is proud of the partnerships and the relationships we’ve forged and nurtured in the sixty years we’ve been in business, and we’re honored to have played a role in Mark’s professional journey. Thank you for helping us celebrate our 60th anniversary by sharing your story, Mark.

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