New Rockford center hopes to rehab addicts, mentally ill
The Board of Directors for the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice celebrated its formal opening of the Center June 7, at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.
Event speakers were Jack Cutrone, executive director, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA); Dr. Anderson Freeman, deputy director for Mental Health and Justice, Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health (IDHS); Dr. Martin S. Lipsky, regional dean, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford; Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Thomas; and Illinois Second District Appellate Justice Kathryn E. Zenoff, chairman of the Illinois Supreme Court Special Judicial Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning.
The Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice will equip communities across the state to appropriately respond to the needs of people with behavioral health disorders who are involved in the criminal justice system.
The Center of Excellence will provide technical assistance, resources, and training to improve justice system responses to individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders. The center will also compile and disseminate information about evidence-based practices for working with this population.
A 2009 study published in Psychiatric Services stated that 14.5 percent of male inmates and 31 percent of female inmates booked into local jails are estimated to have a serious mental illness. Many jurisdictions do not have the information, training and other resources necessary to implement effective diversions or interventions to address mentally ill or substance-dependent offenders.
“The criminal justice system’s traditional models of case processing have not proven adequate to handle the problems of those persons with serious mental illnesses and substance abuse,” Zenoff said. “Courts need innovative alternatives and the knowledge and training of newer therapeutic approaches to more effectively address these populations in their jurisdictions. The Center of Excellence is a major transformation initiative which can positively impact the ability of communities throughout Illinois to slow the revolving door to our jails and prisons for persons with serious mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse disorders. It can help improve public safety and minimize wasteful acute care spending.”
ICJIA awarded Winnebago County a $260,000 federal Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant in June 2011 for the creation of the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice.
The center was formed in a unique intergovernmental collaboration that included ICJIA, Winnebago County and the Illinois Department of Human Services, with assistance from key state judiciary and the University of Illinois.
Cutrone said: “Offenders with mental health disorders often continue to commit non-violent crimes, resulting in repeated incarceration periods and increasing prison costs that could be avoided with proper diversion. By promoting and implementing problem-solving courts and diversion programs specifically designed to address individuals struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders, we can help break their cycle of offending and increase public safety.”
The Illinois Center of Excellence will contact counties and judicial circuits to provide evidence-based training, coordination and implementation assistance to create mental health courts, drug courts and veterans’ courts, and offer alternatives to incarceration. The center will also help train treatment providers to deal with the unique needs of justice-involved offenders.
Planning and program development for the Center of Excellence was overseen by an advisory planning committee and representatives from the ICJIA, IDHS, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, Mental Health Court Association of Illinois, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, and members of the Illinois Judiciary and the Special Supreme Court Judicial Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning.
Dr. Freeman added: “In these difficult financial times, for Illinois Division of Mental Health providers who work with justice-involved consumers, the establishment of the Illinois Center of Excellence shows that there is still a commitment in Illinois to help providers achieve the best practices possible in facilitating recovery of their justice-involved clients. This intergovernmental partnership makes a strong statement about the power of collaboration in creating a good outcome, even while resources are limited.”
From the June 13-19, 2012, issue
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