This post is a follow-up on an earlier one regarding the Illinois State Auditor General's report on the limited adherence of counties statewide to report mental health findings to the Illinois State Police for its background checks for Firearm Owner's Identification Cards. That post may be found at http://www.lorilevinlaw.com/2/post/2012/05/illinois-auditor-general-releases-report-on-effectiveness-of-illinois-firearms-owners-identification-card-act.html. The Auditor General's report indicated that only Cook, LaSalle and Bureau counties were the only three that routinely followed mandated reporting.
Today, the Chicago Tribune reported at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-chief-justice-mentally-ill-guns-0510-20130510,0,1619747.story that Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride issued a memorandum reminding all Illinois judges to direct circuit court clerk's to forward to the Illinois State Police orders determining that persons have mental health problems.
Lori G. Levin
Attorney at Law
180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700
Chicago, IL 60601
Previously, I have written about the Chicago Police Department's Crisis Intervention Training. http://www.lorilevinlaw.com/2/post/2011/07/chicago-police-departments-crisis-intervention-training.html. The CIT training model was originally developed by the Memphis, Tennessee police department in conjunction with the National Alliance on Mental Illness as well as consumers on mental health services. The Chicago Police Department adopted the CIT training in 2004.
In 2009, the Chicago Police Department worked along with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Chicago to develop a police training curriculum for officers who deal with the high percentage of mental illness among delinquent youth. As Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, I invited now retired Lieutenant Jeff Murphy of the Chicago Police Department to present information on the training curriculum.
In 2010, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority provided NAMI of Greater Chicago with an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund twelve CIT youth training sessions, four sessions per year for three years. In the first year, 126 Chicago police officers received that training, all of whom had previously received basic CIT training beforehand. The CIT youth program is a five day, 40 hour course which teaches officers to recognize symptoms of youth mental disorders, assess risk levels of youth for hurting themselves or others, de-escalation techniques, and, if appropriate, diverting youth to community-based mental health treatment.
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority just published an evaluation of the first year of training. http://www.icjia.state.il.us/public/pdf/ResearchReports/CIT_Year1_July_2012.pdf The Authority found that participants were pleased with the training and had applied learned techniques in their work. Many trainees suggested creating a CIT youth unit within the Chicago Police Department as well as expansion of the curriculum to include appropriate responses to uncooperative adults who deal with such youth.
It remains to be seen how the full three years of funded training will impact Chicago delinquent youth who suffer from mental illness. The training is a welcome addition to help such youth.
This afternoon, Amy P. Campanelli of the Law Offices of the Cook County Public Defender and I will be speaking on Fitness to Stand Trial: The Process, The Procedure and the Law at the Illinois State Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education Program on the Plight of the Mentally Ill in the Criminal Justice System.
The State of Illinois' Office of the Auditor General recently released a management audit of the Illinois State Police's administration of the Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) Act. http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/Performance-Special-Multi/Performance-Audits/2012%20Releases/12-ISP-FOID-Act-Mgmt-Full.pdf The Audit found the effectiveness of the FOID card program is limited in promoting and protecting the safety of the public.
As reported in The Chicago Tribune, the Act is controversial with both pro-gun and anti-gun advocates; one side claiming it to be duplicitive of federal gun background check requirements and the other arguing it is the first step to ensure a safe public. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-foid-card-audit-20120504,0,4141457.story?page=1
Persons deemed ineligible to receive FOID cards include felons, fugitives from justice, persons who are involuntarily as well as voluntarily committed mental health hospitals, undocumented immigrants and non-citizens, persons subject to a qualifying order of protection; persons convicted of domestic violence offenses and persons intentionally making false statements on their FOID application.
The report and much media attention has been focused on the fact that only 3 of the 102 counties reporting mental health court orders comply with the Act. However, one of the reporting counties is Cook County, the most populated county in the state. The full report notes that in 2010, Cook County reported 103 persons under mental health court order to the state police in compliance with the Act. As the former executive director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and the former supervisor of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Division, I know the efforts that were made to have Cook County comply with the statute. As private counsel, I have also been contacted by persons whose FOID cards were revoked due to hospitalization for mental health reasons.
The Auditor General reported that during the three year period examined more than 20,000 persons were denied the ability to possess an FOID card. Failure to possess an FOID card and unlawfully possessing a weapon triggers enhanced sentencing penalties.
The Audit is important to encourage compliance with the Act.
In my practice, I continually deal with mental health issues, whether in the criminal and juvenile justice arenas or when they factor into issues in civil cases. Many of these issues manifest themselves when the afflicted are juveniles or young adults. When children's mental health issues are virtually ignored, they will not disappear.
Although most persons who suffer from mental illness never interface with the criminal or juvenile justice systems, many of those persons who are involved in them suffer from a mental illness. Unfortunately, due in part to cuts in community mental health services, the population in the Cook County Department of Corrections treats so many mentally ill persons that it is considered the largest mental health hospital in Illinois. Many programs, such as the criminal Mental Health Courts, Drug Courts and Veteran Courts are helping some of those persons.
At the same time, due to budget constraints, the legislature cut mental health service programs directed towards helping children. Such cuts may be necessary to balance the budget today, but if these young persons are left untreated, it may cost society, as well as the state budget, more in the future.
Since my days as a student at Georgetown University Law Center and its Criminal Justice Clinic, I have spent a great deal of time working on the issue of the mentally ill within the criminal justice system. Although I will not be able to attend this program, I am happy that GULC is sponsoring what appears to be a fabulous program exploring this issue. Attached is the link advertising the program. http://www.law.georgetown.edu/news/releases/September.7.2011.html
In an effort to avert safety issues and limit use of force in dealing with mentally ill persons in crisis, in 2005 the Chicago Police Department developed Crisis Intervention Training. Based on a model developed by the Memphis Police Department in the 1990s, officers volunteer for the 40 hour specialized training which is conducted by mental health professionals, family and consumer advocates and police trainers.
The CIT program works with consumers of mental health services, the felony mental health court and family members to work together to develop treatment alternatives to incarceration.
From its inception, I have viewed this proactive, positive program. In my roles as prosecutor, agency director and private attorney, I have found the officers and program to be receptive to aiding consumers and to try to help them avert crisis.
I am so very pleased that the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority is continuing to provide resources to help mentally ill persons who are involved in the criminal justice system. This time, the Authority will be giving a grant to the Rockford, Illinois area to ensure best practices. http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=1&RecNum=9463
For more than 30 years, the justice system has criminalized mentally ill persons in crisis. Budgets for social services have been drastically cut and long-term hospitalization is not available nor generally appropriate.
Many mentally ill persons who may act out when ceasing voluntary treatment are enmeshed in the criminal justice system. The Cook County Department of Corrections, better known as the Cook County Jail, is considered one of the largest secure facilities for the mentally ill.
I am proud to have worked on programs seeking to rectify this situation. As Supervisor of the Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Division of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, I was part of the planning committee for the first Felony Mental Health Court. This successful program, where severely mentally ill non-violent offenders receive treatment not incarceration, has been replicated in other jurisdictions throughout the state.
As Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, I brought attention to this issue and commissioned studies and brought forth funding projects to expand mental health criminal justice services.
In my private practice, I help families and clients navigate the criminal justice and civil mental health systems to seek justice, and where appropriate treatment.
Baby steps have been made; there is still a long wasy to go to guarantee help for some of society's most vulnerable persons.