Dempsey v. Adams. This class action, currently pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, seeks to insure that persons confined in the Forensic Program at Elgin Mental Health Center: (a) may communicate confidentially with their attorneys and others by telephone; (b) are provided with sufficient phones so that they may communicate with friends, relatives and others; and (c) are permitted to use personal cell phones.
Nick v. Illinois State Police Department. This class action, pending in the Circuit Court of Cook county, seeks to insure that persons who are required to register as sex offenders and who, due to serious mental illness, are unable to do so, are provided with a reasonable accomodation of their handicap as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
MHAI v. DHFS. This complaint for a writ of mandamus seeks to subject the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' Drugs and Therapeutics Committee to the requirements of the Open Meetings Act. The D & T Committee determines what medications are available for persons in the Illinois Medicaid program. Since Medicaid is the main source of funding for the treatment of persons with mental illnesses in Illinois, what medications are available is extremely important to our clients.
Legislation and Other Policy Projects
Mental Health Summit. Seven years ago the Project took a lead role in creating the Mental Health Summit, a coalition of all of the mental health advocacy and provider organizations in Illinois whose goals is to maintain and improve mental health services in the state. Project students staff the Summit. This work includes: 1) organizing monthly meetings; 2) maintaining the Summit website; 3) helping to organized two annual rallies (one in Springfield and one in Chicago); and, 4) drafting advocacy materials for the Summit's members. Current efforts of the Summit include: 1) trying to prevent drastic cuts to the community mental health system caused by Illinois' response to the $10 billion budget deficit; 2) insuring that state hospitals are not closed unless comprehensive plans are in place to provide services in the community; 3) insuring access to appropriate medications; and, 4) working to move persons with mental illnesses out of nursing homes and into more integrated settings.
Persons with mental illnesses in the Criminal Justice System. There are more persons with mental illness in the Cook County Jail (more than 1,000) than in any public or private mental hospital in Illinois. There are more persons with mental illnesses in state prisons (at least 6,000) than in all of the public and private mental hospitals in the state combined. Persons with mental illnesses do not get good mental health care in prisons and jails. In cooperation with many other groups the Project is working on several strategies for diverting persons with mental illnesses form the criminal justice system. These include: 1) the creation and expansion of mental health courts; 2) connecting persons with mental illnesses in prisons and jails to assertive community treatment upon discharge; and 3) improved record sharing between the criminal justice and mental health systems.
Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT). Some years ago the Project worked to enact a law requiring hospitals that perform this treatment to report results to the Department of Human Services. There is evidence from these reports suggesting that: (1) persons who lack the capacity to consent are none the less giving "consent" to these treatments; (2) persons who need this treatment do not have access to it; (3) in some facilities the mode of administration is not consistent with best clinical practice; and (4) the reporting may need to be improved. We have been working with psychiatrists to change the law, the regulations and practices.
Commitment court reform. Commitment hearings in Illinois are often perfunctory and do not afford meaningful participation to either the patients or their family members. The project has been working with lawyers, judges and others to amend the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilites Code, court rules and other practices in order to make this hearings more useful in insuring that persons with mental illness are treated fairly and that the court system helps insure prompt and appropriate treatment in the least restrictive environment.