Skip to Main Content
Illinois Courts Response to COVID-19

Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

The promise of upstream solutions: 988 and CESSA


“For criminal justice stakeholders, 988 is an important opportunity to shift people in crisis toward appropriate care and ideally minimize contact with law enforcement and the justice system. To fully take advantage of this, however, criminal justice partners need to be aware of what 988 provides and prepare processes to appropriately direct people to 988 prior to contact with law enforcement and through to reentry.” (Council of State Governments)

The Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health (IDHS-DMH) launched 988, a three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on July 16, 2022. 988 is a resource for individuals experiencing a crisis or any other kind of emotional distress- whether that is related to suicide, mental health and/or substance use crisis. Callers who are connected with the Illinois Lifeline will receive specialized, individualized support by trained call takers trained in suicide prevention, de-escalation and stabilization, and resources. 988 also provides information and support to concerned family, friends, and caregivers.

988 Resources for Court Professionals: 

Implementation of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: What Court Leaders Need to Know

Behavioral Health State Court Leadership Brief

Illinois 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Planning Page

  • Did You Know: Per IDHS-DMH, after the first month of 988 operations, IL moved from a 17% in-state answer rate to a 78% in-state answer rate. They are expecting numbers to increase as other calls centers adjust staffing based on call volume.

988 is just one component of the crisis care system being developed in Illinois. Within a larger understanding, many mental health crises are currently handed to police for response and intervention. In 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Community Emergency Services and Support Act (CESSA), also known as the Stephon Watts Act. The work of CESSA is to determine, with significant input from stakeholders, the appropriate responders -- behavioral health mobile crisis teams, emergency medical technicians (EMT) or law enforcement -- given the specific circumstances associated with the crisis call. The implementation details for this law have been tasked to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services, who is actively working in concert with the 911 Administrator at the Illinois State Police, the EMS administrators under the purview of the Illinois Department of Public Health, and Statewide and Regional Advisory Committees. The CESSA Statewide Advisory Committee has convened several times, with the eleven (11) regional sub-committees to assemble soon. The regional sub-committees will develop operational policies and procedures to meet the unique needs of their service areas. Stay tuned!

  • Did you Know: As of the writing of this update, IDHS-DMH has reported contracting with 66 providers covering 97 Illinois counties with Mobile Crisis Response Services. Approximately half are prepared to offer 24/7 services while the remaining providers are developing capacity

For further information and or discussion, please contact the AOIC Statewide Behavioral Health Administrator, Scott Block at, as Scott is representing the court through participation on the Expert Consulting Group tasked with assisting the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health in developing and implementing these promising solutions.

To sign up for Communications from the Division of Mental Health regarding 988 and/or the Community Emergency Services and Support Act (CESSA) please complete the request form at:

Additional Resources:

Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program

The Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment assistance to qualified mental health and substance use professionals. The program was designed as incentive for recruitment and retention of those who practice in underserved or rural areas. It seeks to help address the shortage of Illinois community-based behavioral workers that causes disparities in access to critical mental health and substance use services. The amount of the annual award to qualified applicants to repay their student loan debt is based on their position and may be received for up to four years.

The Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative

At Governor Pritzker’s direction, Illinois Departments of Human Services, Healthcare and Family Services, Children and Family Services, Juvenile Justice, Public Health, and the Illinois State Board of Education have put together an interagency working group to better support children in need of behavioral health services and their families, whether they access services in their community, at their school, or through a residential program.

The Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative turns that collaboration into a formal, step-by-step review of existing systems in order to better support Illinois children and families. The Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative will examine:

  • Needs of children requiring behavioral health services
  • Allocation of resources to meet needs within existing programs
  • Pathways for accessing needed services
  • Eligibility requirements for levels of care
  • Decision-making practices for allocation of resources
  • Alignment of policies, rules, regulations to support transparent, efficient, and effective service delivery
  • Barriers to effective interagency coordination
  • Infrastructure needs to support new pathways and existing programs
  • Best practices from other comparable child-serving systems across the country

For more information about the Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative please contact