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Leading Change: Improving Illinois Courts’ Response to Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders


Since its inception in 2019, the Illinois Mental Health Task Force (IMHTF) has embraced a comprehensive approach to engagement in various activities; including planning and hosting an Illinois Mental Health Summit, participating in state and local behavioral health and justice initiatives, and facilitating regional workshops leading up to the development of an Illinois Action Plan. With the Illinois Supreme Court’s approval of the Action Plan during the November 2022 Term and the Statewide Behavioral Health Administrator assisting in effectuating the recommendations, the Task Force determined that the group has achieved the following goals which it set:

  1. To form strong partnerships that drive cross-system collaboration to develop data-informed strategies and solutions at the intersections of mental health, substance use, the courts, and our communities.
  2. To regularly and widely share information among partners which promotes the creation of innovative and evidence-based solutions and strategies to address the mental health and substance use struggles we are facing in our communities and our state.
  3. To assess, identify, and efficiently utilize available resources, including funding, for the strategies and solutions necessary for meaningful change in our response to persons with mental illness and co-occurring disorders.

Noting these achievements, the Illinois Supreme Court asked the Special Supreme Court Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning (JMHP) and IMHTF to evaluate the potential of combining and consolidating the respective charges to leverage and focus future efforts.

As a result, the Illinois Supreme Court, JMHP and IMHTF are excited to announce the evolution of previous efforts into a statewide Leading Change: Improving Illinois Courts’ Response to Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders initiative.

The “Leading Change” initiative will continue to build upon achievements of the past by advancing efforts in the present and future through increased engagement from the Bench via the JMHP.

Pursuant to M.R. 23859, which establishes the charge of the JMHP, the committee shall formulate and prioritize recommendations for changes in the justice system, court operations and administration, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Improved communication and collaboration between the mental health and criminal justice systems in such matters as data gathering and information sharing;
  • Identification and consideration of appropriate diversion models for persons with mental illnesses;
  • Examining and reporting on best practices in mental health courts in Illinois (including such areas as continuity of care for persons with mental illness as they transition from criminal justice to mental health services).

Moving forward, the JMHP will continue to meet its mandate through intentional reorganizing to prioritize Action Plan recommendations within the scope of its subcommittees, which include the following:

  • Problem-Solving Courts Standards/Certification Subcommittee
  • Education Subcommittee
  • Legislative Subcommittee
  • Fitness for Trial Subcommittee
  • Civil Mental Health Subcommittee

This reorganization allows the JMHP, made up of 29 judges, to lead efforts in effectuating the Action Plan through focused efforts of the bench. Consistent with the JMHP charge, committee members will focus on Action Plan strategic initiatives including Courts as Conveners, Training Across the Intercepts, Awareness Across the Intercepts, Intercept 2 (Initial Court Hearings), and Intercept 3 (Courts).

As this next step marks a transition from the IMHTF, the members who have committed their time and knowledge to previous efforts will be called upon to serve as subject matter experts in future pursuits to implement Action Plan recommendations.

Together, the Bench, Bar, and Justice Partners will continue “Leading Change.”

Please visit Leading Change: Improving Illinois Courts’ Response to Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders[AF1] [MY2] for resources to guide your “Leading Change” efforts.