This June, the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) hosted its Annual Training in both Chicago and Carbondale. In one of their largest trainings, LAP welcomed 260 attorneys on-site for the yearly event.
Each year, Illinois LAP teaches attorneys how to recognize and address mental health and substance abuse issues amongst their colleagues and loved ones and motivates volunteers to end the negative stigma attached to seeking help when in need.
Following this year’s training, Executive Director of the Illinois LAP, Robin Belleau, shared more about the Annual Training and its impact on the legal community in Illinois.
The goal of the training is two-fold: first, to educate members of the Illinois legal community about substance abuse and mental health issues and how they can impair a judge’s, lawyer’s, or law student’s ability to function; and second, to train judges, lawyers, and law students to act as volunteers for the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program.
At the training, attorneys are trained to catch the signs and symptoms of mental health, cognitive impairment, suicide and substance abuse. They educate the participants about the Supreme Court Rule and law regarding Illinois LAP and the importance of confidentiality and immunity.
Additionally, training attendees are taught what a Peer Support Volunteer is, how they should engage with LAP clients, as well as the role intervention plays in assisting those in need.
Following the program, attendees have the option to become Peer Support Volunteers. Those interested are asked to complete a questionnaire and an interview with LAP staff to determine their areas of interest and to see if they would make a good fit for LAP’s clientele. If approved, the new volunteers may go on to complete more specialized training based on their areas of interest.
For those who couldn’t attend the training and would still like to help a colleague in need, Belleau encourages them to call Illinois LAP, or browse the website’s Volunteer pages for more information about LAP Volunteerism.
She insists that her staff can help prepare him/her to have that conversation with their colleague about intervention, or if preferred, LAP can also reach out to the person directly to offer support. Either way, Illinois LAP can provide the tools to help colleagues and family members struggling with these issues.
LAP isn’t stopping there though.
As I have written about before, LAP spearheaded the development of the Illinois Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being earlier this year. According to Belleau, the Task Force has some major plans underway.
The task force is in the process of creating an app in partnership with the Illinois ARDC and IICLE, and they are now reaching out to developers for assistance. They are also developing a task force newsletter that will be shared with all their stakeholders. Additionally, the task force is working with the Illinois Judges Association to expand their educational training in the areas of substance abuse and mental health.
Outside of the taskforce, LAP is working with the ABA in creating a substance abuse/mental health requirement for graduation or bar passage similar to the new mental health and substance abuse CLE requirement in Illinois.
As LAP takes steps to create a happier and healthier legal profession, Belleau is optimistic and hopeful about the future.
It’s proven there is a growing need to address wellness among our profession. LAP is uniquely situated to address and lead the charge when it comes to attorneys helping attorneys. We’re excited to see the renewed momentum and growth demonstrated this year’s training, and we’re full speed ahead. Check-in with LAP – we’re here, we’re ready, and we want to work with you!