It’s hard to believe just a few months ago the Illinois Supreme Court’s Mental Health Task Force (Task Force) released the first edition of Behavioral Health, the Bench, and Beyond (BBB) in observation of Mental Health Awareness Month. While Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated nationally each May, the World Health Organization celebrates “World Mental Health Day” on October 10th of each year. World Mental Health Day is observed to raise awareness around mental health issues worldwide and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The day offers an opportunity to educate, create awareness, and advocate against social stigma related to mental health.
I can assure you; the Task Force has been actively engaged in Leading Change and promoting the spirt of World Mental Health Day in all of its efforts. Below are just a few highlights from the Task Force’s work that took place between May and October:
- Hosted and facilitated Regional Sequential Intercept Mapping Workshops (634 justice professionals and partners attended and contributed)
- Promoted participation in a statewide Community Assessment Survey modeled off of the Wayne State University, Center for Behavioral Health and Justice SIMPLE (Sequential Intercept Model Practices Leadership, and Expertise) Scorecard to assess county-level behavioral health and justice collaborations. (147 Responses)
- Developed an initial draft of the forthcoming Mental Health Task Force Action Plan (anticipated to be finalized and promulgated in early 2023)
- Partnered with the Supreme Court Judicial College to develop and deliver web-based educational opportunities focusing on Harm Reduction and Evidence-Based Substance Use Disorder Treatment Strategies (220 attendees) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the Courts (178 attendees) – Recordings are available on the Judicial College LMS
- Presented and promoted behavioral health and justice initiatives at various community awareness and educational events including the National Association of Court Managers Annual Conference and the Illinois Association of Behavioral Health Annual Conference
- Awarded $315,000 from a Bureau of Justice Assistance, Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) Grant to implement and support Pilot Programs serving court involved individuals in the Circuit Court of Cook County, 2nd Circuit, 3rd Circuit, 4th
Circuit, and 17th Circuit. (See Pilot Program Article)
Perhaps of most significance, the Illinois Mental Health Task Force was invited to share its efforts at the Annual Conference of Chief Justices and State Court Administrators (CCJ-COSCA).
Modeling the way for State Courts, CCJ-COSCA’s Annual Conference, which was hosted by Illinois and held in Chicago from July 23-27, 2022, was titled Behavioral Health and the State Courts – Finding Solutions and Resources. During the Conference, attendees heard from national experts, as well as the Illinois Mental Health Task Force as they shared experiences, research, resources, and best practices to improve the courts’ response to individuals with mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders.
The conference culminated with each respective CCJ-COSCA Board of Directors unanimously adopting Resolution 1: “In Support of the Recommendations of the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness.”
The Resolution urges each member of the Conferences to lead, examine, educate, and advocate for system improvements in his or her state or territory.
This action marks the termination of the CCJ-COSCA created National Task Force to Examine the State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness, but signals the beginning of a journey in which CCJ-COSCA will support future efforts, with the leadership from its Behavioral Health Committee and support from the National Center for State Courts. Future efforts are anticipated to include implementation of the recommendations propagated within “Resolution 1,” developing performance measures for state courts and communities, and monitoring and reporting progress and success.
Illinois Supreme Court’s Mental Health Task Force: Action Plan Development
As mentioned in the Task Force highlights, between May and October a significant amount of time and efforts was directed to completion of statewide Sequential Intercept Mapping and behavioral health and justice assessment activities. Overall, the aforementioned activities engaged hundreds of justice partners and resulted in the following:
- Identified and shared information, resources, and gaps across the Sequential Intercept Model
- Identified local/statewide behavioral health services to support diversion from the justice system
- Introduced community system leaders and staff to evidence-based practices and emerging best practices related to each intercept
- Enhanced cross-sector relationships across systems and agencies
- Informed a developing Action Plan and Vision for a court-informed continuum of behavioral health care in Illinois.
After completion of these activities, the Task Force, with assistance from the National Center for State Courts, shifted its focus to drafting a statewide Action Plan including recommendations to support strategies related to each of the following primary activities:
- Courts as Conveners
- Training Opportunities Across the Intercepts
- Awareness Across the Intercepts
- Best Practices: Intercepts Zero - Five
Due to the complexity and careful diligence being taken to create a final action plan and vision that furthers the bold goals of the Task Force, final documents are still under draft with an anticipated completion date in early 2023.
Illinois Supreme Court’s Mental Health Task Force: Next Steps in Leading Change
As the Illinois Mental Health Task Force moves to effectuate National and Statewide efforts to lead, examine, educate, and advocate, as laid out in CCJ-COSCA Resolution 1, proposed next steps include the following actions:
- In partnership with the National Center for State Courts, finalize the Task Force Action Plan
- Presentation of the Action Plan to the Illinois Supreme Court and Chief Judges
- Direct communication with Chief Judges and Trial Court Administrators, encouraging the convening and leading of efforts in their communities through operationalizing the template set forth in the National Task Force: Leading Change Guide for Trial Court Leaders: Improving the Court and Community’s Response to Mental Health and Co-Occurring Disorders and using established Resources and Publications to inform efforts.
- Host a statewide online seminar to broadcast and promote the Action Plan
- Provide technical assistance to Trial Courts who accept the responsibility of effectuating Action Plan recommendations within their local communities