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February 2021Volume 7Number 2PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

The Illinois Mental Health Task Force Virtual Summit Session 5—Illinois’ Path to Improving the Court and Community Responses to Persons with Mental Illness: Bringing the Community Together in One Voice and Common Mission

Following four weeks of powerful and thought-provoking programs, the final session of the virtual summit on October 27, 2020, was a call to action.

Registrants were divided into groups and sent off to breakout rooms to brainstorm the guiding question: What are the most pressing challenges regarding mental health we should address in Illinois? Each group selected a facilitator and a note-taker, the former to report back to the large group and the latter to complete and forward discussion notes.

After listing a number of issues, the group then selected one and discussed possible solutions or strategies to address it.

Next, the group identified what resources were necessary to address the challenge. These naturally included people, time, space, equipment and finances, to name a few. The discussion continued, with the group considering who should be at the table? Is anyone already engaged in the action item or task? If so, who? 

Finally, the group noted any potential barriers, and identified who or what entity is best positioned to move the solution or strategy forward.

When the groups came back together to report on their discussions, it was clear that many identified the some of the same issues; however, each group reported on a different challenge. So many different stakeholders were represented that the exchange of ideas was creative and exciting. 

The Illinois Mental Health Task Force will be using the information provided during this session to help form a plan to improve our court, our community, and our system responses to persons with mental illness and co-occurring disorders. Based upon this session, there are many good things ahead for Illinois.

Sandra Blake is an assistant public defender in Kane County.

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