Illinois prisoners to receive new mental health services

To support incarcerated individuals battling mental illness, two state agencies recently collaborated to improve services for Illinois offenders by leveraging a Chicago-area facility for treatment purposes, simultaneously satisfying the terms of an outstanding class action.


Under the terms of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) will be permitted to use a part of the existing Elgin Mental Health Center (EMHC) as an inpatient mental health treatment facility.


Currently operating as a forensic hospital, the EMHC houses patients deemed unfit to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity. Renovations will render parts of the building suitable for secure housing, with the purpose of helping to stabilize seriously ill offenders who may cope better in alternatives to conventional prison settings.


The IGA complies with a settlement agreement reached this year for a 2007 case. The Rasho v. Baldwin Settlement Agreement, approved in May, requires the corrections department to upgrade multiple areas of prison administration — including staffing, policy and inclusion of mental health professionals in disciplinary hearings.


“Prisons were not designed to be mental health facilities,”  IDOC Director John Baldwin said, while IDHS Secretary James Dimas called the concept “a tremendous step forward for the state of Illinois.”


IDOC will staff the units, provide treatment and ensure that the environs comply with security and mental health regulations.


“This new inpatient treatment program will allow us to provide focused care for seriously mentally ill offenders and help them deal with daily stressors of a prison environment,” Baldwin said.

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