Madison County has another tool in its attempt to help people with mental illness and addiction avoid becoming repeat offenders in the justice system.
The Illinois Courts Administrative Office announced that it has awarded $315,000 of a grant from the Office of Justice, Justice, and Mental Health (JMHCP) Collaborative Program to implement implement and support pilot sub-recipient programs serving those involved in the courts.
The Madison County Mental Health Board was one of five Illinois jurisdictions to receive an award for the Third Judicial Circuit. Four other areas to receive the grant are within the Cook County Circuit Court-CR 1706, Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Court, Circuit Court of the Fourth Judicial Court and the Court of circuit of the seventeenth judicial instance.
“There was a lot of collaboration that took place to get this grant. Chief Circuit Judge (William A.) Mudge has been consulted for his support,” said Deborah Humphrey, executive director of the Madison County Mental Health Board. “Mental Health Board staff worked closely with the Madison County Jail, including Sheriff John Lakin, Maj. Jeff Connor, Capt. Kris Tharp, who is running for state senator (after having been appointed to the post on July 8), and Capt. (Stephen) Circumscriptions. Denise Bradley, a Mental Health Council program manager who also provides crisis counseling at the prison, shared insights into her work helping people.
“We talked about the needs of people with mental illness and substance use disorders who would benefit from treatment rather than incarceration,” she said. “Their charges and offenses relate more to mental illness than to the mere commission of an offence.”
The JMHCP is a new justice initiative developed and implemented with funding from the United States Department of Justice, in partnership with the Illinois Office of Courts Administration (AOIC) and the Mental Health Task Force of the Illinois Supreme Court (task force).
The goals of the JMHCP are to reduce the risk of involvement of the justice system and to increase engagement with treatment services and community resources.
The goals of the JMHCP are to increase screening of those involved in the courts with signs of behavioral health disorders as they present in the justice system and to increase access to short-term case management services .
Humphrey believes the Illinois Courts Grant will help Madison County better leverage existing programs in the state.
“There is an online data system in Illinois called Jail Data Link that can identify anyone in the prison population who has a known diagnosed mental illness and has received treatment,” Humphrey said. “One of the things in the screening process will be to look at Jail Data Link and see if there is anyone who has ever been hospitalized in a local or state hospital or received medical treatment for mental health problems found in the (prison) population. .
“It helps with identification. It also provides information about diagnoses and medications that have been prescribed, so you have that initial knowledge of people who are in prison.
The JMHCP supports partnerships to improve the court and community response to people with mental health issues and concurrent mental health and addictions needs through a designated cross-system liaison. Liaison officers serve those involved in the courts with mental health indications and co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.
“A crisis mental health worker or peer recovery support specialist will be a liaison with the prison, court and community, and they will work to link people incarcerated to mental health services” , said Humphrey. “Once admission and screening is complete, they will do further assessments to determine what each individual needs. If they need medication while they are in prison, the liaison officer can help them get it prescribed.
The next step is to work on setting up resources to help these people reintegrate into the community. The liaison will continue to help these people once they are released from prison and continued follow-up for several months.
“They can connect them to treatment services when they walk through the door,” Humphrey said. “If they have housing, employment or other stabilization needs, the liaison can also help them.
“They can provide case management services to these people after they get out of jail. Part of the assessment is financial – for example, whether they have insurance or Medicaid. They will find a way to get the resources to provide the services they need.
The JMHCP are free, confidential and voluntary judicial resources. Referrals may come from county jail staff, trial court staff, defense attorney, and state attorney’s office. Individuals can also refer themselves.
“This is a demonstration pilot project for five Illinois jurisdictions, with one in each region. We will be representing Region 5,” Humphrey said. “One of the things the Illinois Courts Administrative Office will do is evaluate all projects to determine what each identifies as work to help keep people with mental illnesses from being arrested and how we can continue to offer these types of services.
“We want to do more to prevent people from recycling in prison. They can benefit from treatment that will prevent them from retraining in and out of the criminal justice system.
The JMHCP is scheduled to commence on January 1, 2023 and will operate throughout the calendar year. The National Center for State Courts will assist the AOIC and the task force in providing technical assistance and program evaluations.
“Chestnut Health Systems will be the mental health care provider for the Madison County program,” Humphrey said. “In addition, Dr. Huaibo Xin, director of the department of public health at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is also a collaborator with us.
“Dr. Xin will conduct an evaluation of the program with a criminal justice grant they receive. The evaluation study that would normally cost Madison County $20,000 will be offered at no cost to the project.