State courts have increasingly become the default system for addressing the needs of those with behavioral health issues. Commonly cited statistics show that 64 percent of people in local jails suffer from mental illness. The rate of serious mental illness is four to six times higher in jail than in the general population, and the rate of substance use disorders is seven times higher among those in jail than in the general population.

Following up on its recent call to action, the Illinois Supreme Court Mental Health Task Force (Task Force) is hosting a series of judicially led, multidisciplinary Regional Councils and Resource Mapping Workshops that will meet monthly throughout the state from January-June 2022.

The Regional Councils and Resource Mapping Workshops invite representation from court and community stakeholders including but not limited to court personnel, community behavioral health providers, legislators, government officials, law enforcement professionals, persons with lived experience, and other interested participants to explore and share local, regional, and statewide programming and strategies across the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM).

SIM was developed over several years in the early 2000s by Mark Munetz, MD, and Patricia A. Griffin, PhD, along with Henry J. Steadman, PhD, of Policy Research Associates, Inc. (PRA). SIM was developed as a conceptual model to inform community-based responses to the involvement of people with mental and substance use disorders in the criminal justice system.

As leaders of their communities, courts are in a unique position to expand and improve the response to individuals with behavioral health challenges. The National Center for State Court’s Leading Change Guide for Improving the Court and Community’s Response to Mental Health and Co-Occurring Disorders shares this perspective:

“For decades, courts have gained experience in convening diverse stakeholders to tackle complex problems both within and outside of the justice system. From the evolution of problem-solving courts to dependency dockets, courts are often at the vanguard of responding to societal issues.”

To supplement information gathered and shared through the Regional Councils and Resource Mapping Workshops, the Task Force partnered with the National Center for State Courts to develop a Community Assessment and invites completion from court and community stakeholders throughout the state.