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Effectuating the Illinois Mental Health Task Force Action Plan


As 2023 concluded, so did the multi-year Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators (CCJ/COSCA) National Judicial Task Force to Examine the State Courts Response to Mental Illness.

Upon conclusion, CCJ/COSCA unanimously adopted Resolution 1: In Support of the Recommendations of the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness, which urges each member of the Conferences to lead, examine, educate, and advocate for system improvements in his or her state or territory.

Building upon past achievements of the Illinois Mental Health Task Force, the Illinois Supreme Court headed this call to action by tasking its Special Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning (JMHP)[AF1] to serve as steward of the previously adopted Illinois Mental Health Task Force Action Plan.

To meet this directive and challenge, the JMHP reorganized to prioritize Action Plan recommendations within the scope of its subcommittees, which now 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. Below are some notable 2024 activities that reinforce the NCSC mantra: Lead, Examine, Educate, Advocate


  • Each JMHP Subcommittee developed purposes, statements, and goals to guide 2024 actions and deliverables.
  • Illinois’ efforts were nationally highlighted by the Council of State Governments as a presenter during its Aligning Health and Safety: A New Tool for States to Transform Behavioral Health and Justice Systems Webinar.
  • The Administrative Office of Illinois Courts (AOIC) State Court Behavioral Health Administrator was selected to Chair the Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the Illinois Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council. The Council was established by the Illinois Department of Human Services in 1992 as a requirement of the Federal Mental Health Block Grant, and The Federal Public Service Act [42 U.S.C. 300x-1 et seq].


  • To assist the Illinois Courts in effectuating Recommendation 6.1 of the Illinois Mental Health Task Force Action Plan which calls for improved efficiencies in Fitness to Stand Trial processes, the AOIC was awarded a State Justice Institute (SJI) Technical Assistance Grant in 2023. With SJI funding support, the JMHP “Fitness for Trial Subcommittee” and consultants from the National Center for State Courts spent calendar year 2023 engaged in activities informing the Leading Change in Fitness to Stand Trial Systems: Illinois Courts Guidance Report. The report was approved by the Illinois Supreme Court during the January 2024 Administrative Term, and subsequently distributed to the Illinois Conference of Chief Judges. Currently, the JMHP Fitness for Trial Subcommittee is working to implement the report’s guidance.
  • Recommendation 6.2 of the Illinois Mental Health Task Force Action Plan seeks to increase the use of civil pathways to outpatient care (405 ILCS 5/1-119.1), which is often referred to as Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). In general, AOT refers to involuntary mental health treatment in an outpatient setting with varying degrees of judicial involvement and oversight. Throughout Illinois, this pathway to mental health care is widely considered to be underutilized. In response the JMHP Civil Subcommittee continues to engage with key justice partners to review policy and practice barriers.
  • Recommendation 6.4 of the Illinois Mental Health Task Force Action Plan recommends continued implementation and assurance of problem-solving court best practices. The JMHP Problem-Solving Court Standards and Certification Subcommittee is actively reviewing recent National “All Rise” Best Practice Standards to ensure the Illinois Standards are consistent.


  • With support from the Illinois Supreme Court Judicial College, Mental Health Action Plan recommendations were integrated throughout the 2024 Judicial Education Conference. Hon. Steven Leifman, Dr. Michael Champion, and Dr. Sarah Vinson of the Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative (JPLI) facilitated the Judicial Work at the Interface of Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice session. Hon. Paul Novak (19th Judicial Circuit), Dr. Sharon Coleman, IDHS Deputy Director of Forensic and Justice Services, and Scott Block, AOIC State Court Behavioral Health Administrator served as faculty for the Navigating the Fitness to Stand Trial Process session. Hon. Sheree Henry (Circuit Court of Cook County), Hon. Zina Cruse (20th Judicial Circuit), Dr. Nicole Gastala, Medical Director, IDHS-SUPR, Scott Block, AOIC State Court Behavioral Health Administrator, and Joe Ewers, Kankakee County Probation Supervisor, shared life saving information and resources as faculty of the Opioid Crisis and the Criminal Justice System session.
  • Developed by the State Court Behavioral Health Administrator and the JMHP Education Subcommittee, the Leading Change: Illinois Innovations Series started in January 2024. The series of virtual presentations invites Illinois Judges and Justice Partners to learn about pioneering “Illinois-based” approaches and strategies that support strategic initiatives within the Illinois Mental Health Task Force Action Plan. To date, the McLean County Frequent Users Systems Engagement (FUSE) Program, 17th Judicial Circuit Misdemeanant Wellness Track, Cook County Civil Court Pathways to Outpatient Mental Health Care, and the 22nd Judicial Circuit Moral Reconation Therapy and the Court presentations have tallied a total of 656 registered guests.


  • The AOIC’s State Court Behavioral Health Administrator provides a dedicated voice for the Judicial Branch through appointment as a member of the following Executive Branch Committees and Councils:
  • Governor’s Chief Behavioral Health Officer’s “Kitchen” Cabinet
  • Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council, Justice Committee Chair
  • Advisory Council on Substance Use Disorders
  • Forensic Advisory Committee
  • 988/Community Emergency Services and Support Act Expert Advisory Committee