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Details | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

Leading change in fitness to stand trial systems


Of the countless ways in which mental illness and the justice system intersect within the Illinois Courts, one of the most direct is when courts and judges are involved in an order for evaluation and ultimate determination of a defendant’s fitness to stand trial. As courts and mental health authorities across the nation face increasing cases involving the fitness of defendants, system improvements and reforms have emerged as a prominent national discussion. Acknowledging the “Illinois” fitness to stand trial system has room for improvement, the Supreme Court Special Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning’s Competency Subcommittee has spent the majority of 2023 working with the National Center for State Courts to lead, evaluate, and identify court-driven opportunities to improve practices within Illinois Courts. As this effort is supported by a time-limited grant from the State Justice Institute, a final report identifying operational improvements is anticipated to be finalized in early 2024.

Running concurrent with the court’s effort, Public Act 102-913 (405 ILCS 140), the Mental Health Inpatient Facility Access Act mandated that the Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health (DMH) develop a written, strategic plan that comprehensively addresses improving access to inpatient psychiatric beds in State-operated mental health facilities for individuals needing a hospital level of care. In response, DMH brought together a team from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Healthcare Delivery (IHDD) to work with the Division’s leadership and its Forensic Work Group to develop a strategic plan that aims to improve the State’s ability to provide recovery-oriented care, specifically to its forensic consumers, more efficiently and effectively. On September 8, 2023, DMH fulfilled the legislative requirement by submitting to the Illinois Legislature, a Strategic Plan for Inpatient State-Operated Psychiatric Hospital Capacity and Access.

Each respective effort represents substantive progress toward the implementation of Recommendation 6.1 of the Illinois Mental Health Task Force Statewide Action Plan to Improve the Court and Community Response to Individuals with Mental Illness that reads as follows:

  • The Task Force recommends that the Court partner with the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health, Forensic Services Director to further develop alternative fitness to stand trial strategies to alleviate the negative effects stemming from individuals languishing in jails while awaiting restoration services.