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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Update on State of Illinois behavioral health and justice initiatives


by David Jones, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, Office of Governor JB Pritzker

As Chief Behavioral Health Officer for the State of Illinois, I am deeply heartened by the restorative justice model being implemented across the state. Both Deputy Governor Sol Flores and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton are champions for intervening early to prevent people from unnecessarily becoming involved with the criminal justice system. Restorative justice includes deflection, diversion, and expungement. Efforts to explicitly deflect people accused of committing non-violent crimes into social and health systems to address their challenges more appropriately is wonderful. Moreover, research has shown the strategy of connecting people with the social determinants of health (i.e., housing, employment, nutritional svs.) and behavioral health services produce both better health outcomes and healthier communities.

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) in partnership with, Illinois State Police (ISP), the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), and community-based organizations are collaborating to potentially expand the Deflection Model.

In fact, Illinois was one of four states chosen in a competitive process to participate in a 6-month learning collaborative for Deflection and Pre-arrest Diversion (DPAD) Initiatives. The Learning collaborative is supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in partnership with the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTACC) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). This Learning Collaborative is a six-month-long opportunity designed to support states in the development and implementation of a sustainable state-level DPAD initiative addressing the needs of individuals with substance use disorders.

The Illinois team includes Deputy Governor Flores, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, David T. Jones, G.O., Deputy Director of Planning, Performance Measurement, and Federal Programs Stephanie Frank, Acting Lieutenant of Investigative Support Command, Brandon Grzechowiak from the Illinois State Police, Research Manager Jessica Reichert, and Assistant Deputy Director Dr. Millicent Lewis-McCoy from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Illinois is excited for this opportunity to receive technical assistance in creating an action plan for sustaining and expanding the DPAD initiative across the state and receiving guidance for addressing social equity and racial disparities in the criminal legal system. The Illinois team will use this opportunity to build on the momentum started by the current DPAD initiatives to develop a shared operational vision for Illinois. The learning collaborative will be a catalyst to convene and connect partners across the state to align and amplify a set of currently disconnected efforts. This is a tremendous opportunity for Illinois and the multi-sector involvement to propel Illinois forward towards a sustainable and equity-oriented deflection model.

In addition, Illinois is committed to expanding the array of community-based treatment services to address the needs of individuals experiencing mental illness and/or substance use disorder.

Increasing accessibility for behavioral health treatment services is even more vital for people involved with the criminal justice system. Over the past six years, the notion of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) has moved beyond concept to implementation.

CCBHC’s are specially designated clinics that provide a comprehensive range of mental health, substance use disorder and primary health care services. The CCBHC model alleviates decades- old challenges that have led to a crisis in providing access to mental health and substance use care. CCBHC’s can serve as a health home to people returning to the community from jail or prison and more importantly, provide integrated whole person care to potentially mitigate involvement with the criminal justice system.

CCBHC’s may also serve as a component of the solution to decade long challenges of jails and prisons serving as defacto mental health hospitals. Following the 1970’s deinstitutionalization movement, in which many states psychiatric hospitals were shuttered, over the following decades, the expansion of jails and prisons served as the unintentional bridge to psychiatric treatment. Particularly for people with more acute mental illness and/or substance use disorder.

CCBHC’s are required to provide comprehensive treatment no matter, level of acuity, payor type, and include 24/7 mobile treatment capacity.

Moreover, expanding treatment for people involved with the justice system to include broader access to evidence-based practices, such as medication assisted recovery to treat opioid use disorder has proven to be lifesaving. The strategy to attempt to arrest our way out of the disease of addiction has proven futile. Decades if not centuries of inequality towards African Americans, Latinos and indigenous people of color have deepened the mistrust of institutions. Fortunately, economic investment, social justice reform, while expanding community-based integrated behavioral and primary health care treatment will broaden pathways to address the trend of inequities.

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