The Illinois Supreme Court took another step forward in prioritizing mental and behavioral health in the state’s courts with the hiring of a Statewide Behavioral Health Administrator.
Scott Block will serve as a mental health voice and resource for the Illinois Judicial Branch, furthering local, state, and national behavioral health and justice initiatives that impact the courts. This includes providing guidance to the Illinois Courts’ on the intersection of behavioral health and justice and serving as project director for the Illinois Supreme Court Mental Health Task Force, according to a press release.
“We welcome Scott and look forward to his mental health expertise and leadership within the Illinois Judicial Branch,” Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said in the release. “The Illinois Courts have been at the forefront of mental health best practices and this hire raises the bar on what we can accomplish.”
Before joining the Illinois Judicial Branch, Block was the Executive Director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board and Director of Special Projects at the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, where he developed and led its Problem-Solving Court. The 22nd Judicial Circuit’s Adult Drug Court was recognized as a Mentor Court by the National Drug Court Institute.
Behavioral health in the courts: a nationwide challenge
More effectively responding to the needs of court-involved individuals with mental illness has become a challenge in courts nationwide, especially during COVID-19.
In 2020, the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators established the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Responses to Mental Illness.
The Task Force was created to examine the responses of state courts to mental illness and co-occurring disorders and to support best practices for improving court and community responses.
Marcia Meis, Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, and Justice Kathryn Zenoff of the Illinois Appellate Court Second District both serve as members of the Task Force.
The Task Force’s work has included the development of online educational resources, including a Behavioral Health eLearning series; a Behavioral Health Resource Hub, which includes tools to build a structure of support for mental health issues within communities; and a Behavioral Health Alerts newsletter, which provides national initiative updates, news articles, and research and resources regarding behavioral health in the courts.
The Task Force is working to develop additional resources, best practices, and policy recommendations for state courts and will deliver a final report during the 2022 Conference of Chief Justices-Conference of State Court Administrators Annual Meeting in Chicago.
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