Skip to Main Content

Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Mental Health Summit Series underway in Illinois with 700 attendees


The Illinois Supreme Court, in cooperation with the State Justice Institute (SJI) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), is holding a Virtual Summit Series (Summit) this fall. This Summit, a mixture of plenary sessions and interactive panel presentations, is part of the National Judicial Task Force initiative to examine how to improve state courts and community response to mental illness.

The Summit is a statewide, multi-disciplinary series of five sessions held virtually, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. each Tuesday continuing through October 27, 2020. Registration is available here.

“Illinois’ problem-solving courts have helped thousands of individuals receive the help they need to get their lives back on track,” Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said. “Hosting this Summit will keep the Illinois Courts at the forefront of mental health best practices.”

The first session, The 21st Century Crisis System: Strategies for Mental Health and Law Enforcement Collaboration to Prevent Justice Involvement, was held on September 29th.

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke and Secretary Grace Hou of the Illinois Department of Human Services introduced the first session with Dr. Margie Balfour, Chief of Quality and Clinical Innovation for Connections Health Solutions and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona, serving as the speaker.

Dr. Balfour addressed the crisis system, providing statistics on mental health scenarios and the different outcomes for the individual involved based on issues such as race and socioeconomic status. She used Arizona as an example of a crisis system which has been able to divert people to treatment options over jail and a system in which law enforcement in some cities is proactive on mental health crises. After her presentation Dr. Balfour answered questions from some of the 700 attendees.

Local panel speakers addressed issues such as Crisis Intervention Team training and community policing. The panel included Chicago Police Department officer Kurt Gawrisch, Amy C. Watson, PhD, a professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Geri Silic, a police-based social worker with the Park Ridge Police Department, retired 14th District Commander and CPD officer Marc S. Buslik, and Nathan Whinnery, manager at the Rosecrance's Mulberry Center for community health services in Rockford.

The future sessions include such noted speakers as former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, Judge Steven Leifman of Miami-Dade, Florida, and psychiatrists Dr. Debra Pinals (Michigan) and Dr. Sarah Vinson (Georgia).

The topics covered will be:

October 6th - Mental Health Diversions from the Justice System through Leadership, Collaboration, and Building Momentum and Moving Forward with Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
October 13th - Voices of Lived Experience: Informing Change
October 20th - How Mental Illness and Trauma Affect Quality of Life
October 27th  Illinois’ Response: Bringing the Community Together in One Voice and Common Mission

“This Series presents a unique opportunity to become informed on how to take the operation of Illinois’ problem-solving courts to an unparalleled level,” said Appellate Justice Kathryn Zenoff, Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Mental Health Task Force. “It also presents an opportunity, never before available, to collaborate both with community stakeholders and our partners in the legislative and executive branches of Illinois government to develop and implement effective and lasting change not only benefitting those with behavioral health disorders, but improving the quality of life of all citizens within our state.”

The goal of the Summit is to provide a forum where representatives from the judicial, executive, and legislative branches, along with key stakeholders from the behavioral health system, such as providers, advocates, and individuals with lived experience, can come together to discuss effective practices already in existence and collaborate to create new paths for the early diagnosis and treatment of individuals suffering from mental health and substance use issues. The Summit is also intended to identify strategies and develop initiatives leading to treatment, rather than jail, for individuals who suffer from behavioral health disorders.

The Illinois Supreme Court’s Mental Health Task Force, comprised of behavioral health and justice system stakeholders throughout the state, is charged with creating the agenda for the Summit and leading implementation of new initiatives resulting from the Summit.

The NCSC, which will coordinate the Summit, is the preeminent judicial reform organization in the United States. Its National Judicial Task Force was established this year to assist state courts in their efforts to more effectively respond to the needs of court-involved individuals with serious mental illness.

The SJI, which provides funding for the Summit, was established by federal law in 1984 to award grants to improve the quality of justice in state courts, and foster innovative, efficient solutions to common issues faced by all courts.