Fourth Circuit Establishing Mental Health Court in Effingham, Christian Counties


Published on July 18 2013 10:29 am
Last Updated on July 18 2013 10:32 am
Written by Greg Sapp

Mental Health Courts with Veterans Treatment Tracks are being established in Effingham and Christian Counties.

Fourth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Gene Schwarm recently received word that the circuit has been awarded a $168,282 grant by the Adult Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board for implementing the pilot courts.

Schwarm said, "We see a significant number of offenders in our courts with mental health disorders and this specialty court will allow these counties to reduce recidivism and enhance the quality of life for offenders with mental health disorders with certain non-violent crimes and divert them from incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections."

The Mental Health Court will have a Veterans Treatment Track especially directed to the increased number of veteran offenders with post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, anxiety and mental health disorders who are entering the criminal justice system.  Effingham and Christian Counties were identified as the pilot counties as they have the highest number of veterans in the Fourth Judicial Circuit.  Probation departments in these counties report they are experiencing high caseloads of offenders who have been assessed with mental health disorders.

Mental Health Court uses much the same methodology and approach as Drug Court, which has been highly successful in these two counties.  The program model consists of four phases: stabilization, cognitive/life skills building, restorative/reintegration, and graduation.  As in Drug Court, Mental Health Court will offer incentives for compliant behavior and sanctions for negative behavior.  The new court anticipates accepting 20 offenders screened from 80 potential applicants.  Projected annual cost per offender, funded by the grant, is $8,414, which is much less than the annual cost of incarcerating an individual in the Illinois Department of Corrections, $21,500.

The Fourth Circuit has been working with specialty courts expert Michelle Rock, Director of the Illinois Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Justice, who applauded Chief Judge Schwarm for seeking specialized training to implement the courts.