Illinois Supreme Court and Partners Seek Solutions To Mental Health Concerns in IDOC

updated behavioral health banners

Task Force Activities

Illinois Supreme Court and Partners Seek Solutions To Mental Health Concerns in IDOCEach Tuesday through October, the Illinois Supreme Court is partnering with the State Justice Institute and the National Center for State Courts to explore ways to deal with the problem of large numbers of mentally ill non-violent people behind bars in Illinois. To get a handle on this, WSIU's Kevin Boucher recently talked with Justice Kathryn Zenoff. (podcast) A link to the conference materials can be found on the NCSC mental health website.

Just and Well: Rethinking How States Approach Competency to Stand Trial The competency to stand trial process is designed to protect the rights of people who do not understand the charges against them and are unable to assist in their own defense. But across the country, this process has become increasingly overburdened and delayed, causing people to languish in jail while states contend with the high associated costs. Seeking solutions to these serious challenges, the organizational co-authors of this report gathered a group of national advisors to find a way forward. This JPLI/CSG report outlines the 10 most effective strategies state officials can pursue to improve the competency to stand trial process. Its recommendations represent a consensus view of what competency to stand trial should ideally look like.

The paper was prepared as a follow-up to a convening in 2019 that included Task Force members Judge Matthew D’Emic, Judge Nan Waller, and NCSC consultants.

Research and Resources

Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative - Recent news stories, publications, and resources Rethinking competency to stand trial; resources for honoring the participants in veterans treatment courts; and an opportunity to share your COVID-19 story.

Texas Judicial Summit on Mental Health This year's virtual summit, held on November 9th and 10th, will include opportunities to connect with colleagues, establish new relationships, and engage in learning sessions designed to be inspiring yet practical. Participants will receive tools to help navigate the complex mental health laws, including a new resource: the first edition of the Texas Juvenile Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Law Bench Book. Registration is open, and free.

Impact of COVID-19 on State Mental Health Services To understand and assess the magnitude of the COVID-19 impact on state mental health systems, and how these systems have adapted to challenges presented by COVID-19, NRI, in collaboration with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), surveyed the SMHAs during the summer of 2020. This report represents the results of this survey.

National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Weekly Update Includes links to a plethora of recent resources and news, including a summary of the national COVID-19 survey above.

The Implications of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Substance Abuse County leaders, federal officials and experts focus on behavioral health and mental health trends during the pandemic, underscoring services and resources for vulnerable populations such as veterans and people living in rural counties. A National Association of Counties video resource.

Arizona Supreme Court Committee on Mental Health and the Justice System Final Report Adopted The Committee on Mental Health and the Justice System has convened since September 2018 to develop and recommend comprehensive, evidence-based best practices and cross-agency protocols to improve the administration of justice for persons with mental illness. Combined, the Committee possesses over 500 years of experience in the legal, judicial, behavioral health, and advocacy fields, and many members have dedicated their careers to serving individuals and families who are living with mental health conditions.

PRA October eNews Includes an introduction to the Competence to Stand Trial microsite. The microsite is a one-stop-shop for CST/CR resources, research, and useful tools. The materials provided in the microsite may help jurisdictions improve outcomes for individuals for whom CST is raised and the jurisdictions that serve them.

Tiny Chat 27: Street Outreach Court This conversation is with Judge Libby Hines from Michigan's 15th Judicial District and it details her Street Outreach Court - how it was established, its impact, and ways other courts could follow this model.

SAMHSA GAINS Center Newsletter Links to information on Oklahoma’s peer support system, trauma-informed training opportunities, and a SIM mapping workshop solicitation.

PTACC Ticker Wednesday, October 28th Includes a new USICH (US Interagency Council on Homelessness) toolbox that identifies actions stakeholders should take to break the link between homelessness and criminal justice involvement.

SAMHSA Headlines The latest from SAMHSA, including information on a 10-Part series of 1-hour, interactive training sessions, focusing on areas of telehealth specific to mental health professionals transitioning to virtual appointments during COVID-19.

Double Jeopardy: COVID-19 and Behavioral Health Disparities for Black and Latino Communities in the U.S. The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted racial and ethnic disparities in access to behavioral health care. While their rates of behavioral health disorders may not significantly differ from the general population, Blacks and Latinos have substantially lower access to mental health and substance-use treatment services.

SAMHSA Training and Technical Assistance Related to COVID-19 An updated list of SAMHSA COVID-19 resources.

How to Select Telehealth Services – A COSSAP Resource When considering the development of a telehealth program, it is critical to understand the needs of your organization and patients and to assess how telehealth can meet those needs. Your organization should identify ways that telehealth can help address the needs of your population and select specific telehealth services accordingly.

SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center Bulletin The following resources can be used to support disaster response for people experiencing homelessness, help people who are homeless protect their health during COVID-19, and help responders in their work with people who are homeless.

Veterans Day Toolkit November is a great opportunity for your veterans treatment court to engage your community on the inspiring, lifesaving work you do every day. The Justice For Vets National Veterans Day Toolkit outlines the many ways your court can recognize the commitment and sacrifice made by veterans in your program and in your community throughout the month.

In the News

Inmates with Mental Illness are Illegally Stuck in WA Jails The state has never fully complied with a 2015 federal court decision, known as Trueblood, to quickly provide inmates with mental illness treatment before they stand trial. But since the beginning of the pandemic, that poor compliance record has worsened, as the list of incarcerated people waiting to be transferred grows. Out of 753 orders for treatment between February and August, only 55 people were transferred within the required (Trueblood) timeframe.

Cities Aim To Remove Police From Most Psychiatric, Substance Abuse Calls Three cities, including San Francisco, are taking the police out of responding to most mental and behavioral crisis calls. Instead, mental health professionals and paramedics would respond first.

TAC Research Weekly: Crisis Response in California In Los Angeles in June, the City Council voted to develop an unarmed model of crisis response to respond to individuals in psychiatric distress and instructed the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst to analyze model crisis response programs in the United States and abroad. The report was presented to the Los Angeles City Council last month, and the Council voted to approve the motion unanimously last week.

News and Commentary from the Treatment Advocacy Center A summary of recent developments and compelling news stories from across the country highlighting America's broken mental health treatment system and how to fix it. Includes October’s datapoint of the month, more than $11.4 billion was spent in Fiscal Year 2019 on operating inpatient state psychiatric hospitals. This accounts for 28% of the total state mental health agency expenditures.

California Defendants Entitled to Mental Health Care Languish in Overcrowded, Unhealthy Jails Thousands of Californians currently in jail facing criminal charges are eligible for mental health treatment under Assembly Bill 1810, yet there are so few appropriate mental health care facilities that most languish for years in jail or prison.

California Chief Justice Launches Work Group on Homelessness California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye on Friday announced members of a new Work Group on Homelessness that will study and recommend ways the judicial branch can further assist people experiencing homelessness or facing the possibility of losing their homes.

New Orleans Judge Questions City's Request to Halt Mental Health Jail Construction U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael North questioned why the city only recently claimed it was ordered to build the facility illegally and why it hasn’t committed to an alternative plan. Seizing on Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s comments from earlier this year that she would rather invest in “people not jails,” North asked, “What about the people in jail?”

Reps. Porter, Cárdenas, Pressley And Scanlon Introduce Bill To Protect Individuals With Mental Illness, Disabilities From Police Violence The Mental Health Justice Act would support the creation of mental health first responder units that would be deployed in lieu of law enforcement when 911 is called because an individual is in a mental health crisis.

The Debates Ignored Mental Health. Here’s Where Trump and Biden Stand Three times as many adults have had symptoms of an anxiety disorder, depressive disorder or both during the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the first half of 2019, according to surveys by the CDC. In mid-July, four in 10 adults showed signs of a disorder. Despite the spike, there were only passing references to the treatment of mental illness or substance use.

OJP Awards Grant Funds The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs awarded grants totaling more than $340 million to help fight the addiction crisis looming over the United States, dramatically impacting crime victims, children, families, first responders and communities at large.

CRISIS NOW: National Campaign To Create A Uniform Mental Health Response And Recovery System Not Dependent On Police Or Emergency Rooms The goal behind CRISIS NOW is to create a uniform mental health system that is not so heavily dependent on the police and hospital emergency rooms. The first prong is creating Crisis Call Hubs, which can be contacted by voice, text, or chat through a specific telephone number rather than having those in crisis call 911. But this new 988 number under the CRISIS NOW approach would offer much more than its predecessor. Staffed by mental health professionals, HUB Coordinators would triage each call and offer tailored help to each caller.

State of Justice CSG Justice Center Newsletter COVID presents fresh challenges and new opportunities for reentry in Connecticut. Package of police and criminal justice reform bills heads to Virginia governor for signature. Activists work to ensure voting rights in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. Utah’s justice reform effort lacked sufficient behavioral health resources.

Mental Health Judge Is Not A “Social Worker” But Uses Docket To Connect Individuals With Mental Illnesses To Social Workers Fairfax County Virginia General District Judge Tina Snee answers questions about the county’s mental health docket, which is an important part of the overall Diversion First program that was created to divert individuals with mental illnesses and addiction problems into treatment services rather than having them languish in jail and ultimately being released untreated.

Tried to Kill Himself Twice Before Fairfax Mental Health Docket Helped Him Get His Life Together This is the first of three posts about the Fairfax County Mental Health docket.

A Third Have Schizophrenia, Most Drug/Alcohol Problems, Half Homeless: Offered Hope In Mental Health Court This is the second in a three part series about Fairfax County’s mental health docket. This part looks at the history behind the docket and statistics about those it helps.

State of Justice CSG Justice Center Newsletter In a particularly poignant letter, a retiring sheriff details the scope of mental health crises in Wyoming jails. Vermont gets to work implementing criminal justice reforms. Virginia governor signs more than a dozen criminal justice reform measures.

‘Black Robe Effect’ Drives Success of State’s First Court-Ordered Treatment Program in Doña Ana County It took the death of a homeless man with a long history of mental health issues in Albuquerque to galvanize New Mexico legislators to finally pass the state’s first assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law in 2015. A group of local officials – with guidance from a long-time national advocate – created the state’s first AOT program in Doña Ana County in 2016.

Connecticut Early Screening Program, Prosecutors Highlighted in New Book In the ESI program, specially trained prosecutors screen for minor offenses while counselors in the courthouse work to get the defendants treatment. The result is a better outcome for a defendant and a reduced burden on the courts.

Fatal Police Shootings Raise Interest In “CAHOOTS” – Oregon Program That Reduces Violence, Unnecessary Arrests & Gets People Help The fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., this week in Philadelphia, who had a mental illness and was wielding a knife, made national headlines, drew comments from both presidential candidates, sparked rioting, and once again raised questioned about whether the police should be the first to respond when someone is in a mental health crisis.

NAMI Statement On The Tragic Killing Of Walter Wallace, Jr. A mental health crisis is the only medical emergency in which we do not dispatch an ambulance and appropriately trained individuals. We would never yell commands at an individual during a heart attack and expect them to comply. Yet, a person in crisis, who is possibly experiencing a break from reality, is expected to react rationally while being confronted by officers with their weapons drawn and pointed at them.

CW Tillman on the ADA and the Invisibility of Mental Health Tillman, who has worked in mental health and disability rights, says mental health advocacy lags decades behind. He points to the hiddenness of psychiatric challenges as to why because it makes protests less visually impactful and precludes adequate protection under the ADA. To get to this part of the conversation, he says, it’s important to first look back at the civil rights disability movement and how the ADA came to be.

Mental Health Experts to Pair with Police in Northern Illinois Winnebago County sheriff's deputies and Rockford police officers will pair with mental health experts when responding to emergency psychiatric and suicidal episodes as a new approach over arrests.

When Mental Health and the Law Collide: One mom’s years-long fight for justice for her son Tonya Pannell has been fighting for her son, D’Mon Hancock, his entire life. “To raise a normal child, it takes a village,” said Pannell. “But when you have a mentally-ill child, it takes the nation.”

Sozosei Foundation Aims to Set a New Course for Decriminalizing Mental Illness in America The Sozosei Foundation, a new philanthropy, has been launched to address the over-incarceration of people with mental illness and is convening an inaugural summit December 14-16 on this topic.

Want to get the Behavioral Health Alerts newsletter automatically? Subscribe here.

Have comments or feedback about Behavioral Health Alerts? Contact Rick Schwermer at