The Twenty Second Judicial Circuit Mental Health Court (MHC) Program officially convened in April of 2007 with Hon. Charles P. Weech as the presiding Judge. The MHC is a voluntary program designed to serve nonviolent criminal defendants who are struggling with mental illness and currently involved in the criminal justice system of McHenry County. In lieu of traditional punishment, the MHC diverts defendants away from the traditional criminal justice system by offering alternative court, intensive judicial/community supervision and treatment. Upon acceptance into the program each defendant shall appear in court on a regular basis, meet with the MHC team members consisting of a mental health professional, nurse and probation officer as scheduled, and follow the recommended treatment plan developed with a community treatment provider. The MHC team members conduct home, community and office visits to monitor compliance with the treatment/service plan and provide progress reports to the court. Defendants advance through the program by increasing duration between court appearances and meetings with the MHC team.
Involvement in the MHC can last anywhere from 12-24 months depending on the defendant’s level of stabilization, progress and compliance. In return for the commitment and hard work, not only do the defendants gain access to mental health treatment services and support which can be life changing events, successful completion of the program often results in case dismissal or a reduction of charges. In the event of complete non-compliance or the participant chooses to withdraw from the MHC, the traditional court process will resume.
Court Model: Pre Plea/Pre Adjudication
Target Population: The Mental Health Court’s target population is Moderate to High Risk/High Needs offenders who reside in McHenry County, Illinois, who have a current nonviolent misdemeanor or felony offense that appears to have been driven by a DSM-IV-TR primary mental health diagnosis.
Court Status Hearings: Mental Health Court proceedings take place on Fridays at 2:00 pm in Courtroom 203. Defense Attorneys are expected to arrive 15 minutes early for staffing.
As stated in (
730 ILCS 168/20) The Mental Health Court Treatment Act:
Section 20 Eligibility
(a) A defendant may be admitted into a mental health court program only upon the agreement of the prosecutor and the defendant and with the approval of the court.
(b) A defendant shall be excluded from a mental health court program if any one of the following applies:
(1) The crime is a crime of violence as set forth in clause (3) of this subsection (b).
(2) The defendant does not demonstrate a willingness to participate in a treatment program.
(3) The defendant has been convicted of a crime of violence within the past 10 years excluding incarceration time, specifically first degree murder, second degree murder, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, armed robbery, aggravated arson, arson, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, stalking, aggravated stalking, or any offense involving the discharge of a firearm.
The MHC Team will act in accordance with the above referenced Mental Health Court Treatment Act to determine eligibility of McHenry County Mental Health Court referrals.
In addition, the following criteria must be met for a referral to be accepted for placement in the Mental Health Court program:
- A referral involving a crime that is listed in 730 ILCS 168/20 (b) 3 is excluded from eligibility.
- Must be a McHenry County resident.
- Must be 17 years old or older at the time of their initial screening.
- Must have a diagnosis of serious and persistent mental illness.
- Moderate to Maximum Risk/Need Defendant as determined by the LSR.
The following circumstances may impact eligibility to participate in MHC:
Other pending felony charge(s).
If the offense involves a crime against the person, victim consultation may impact eligibility.
There is a hold from any other jurisdiction.
DUI charges are ineligible
Link: Mental Health Court Referral Forms - It is the policy of the Twenty Second Judicial Circuit Mental Health Court Program that referrals are made directly to the MHC Coordinator. The referral packet shall be completed in full by the defendant and/or the individual making the referral prior to MHC consideration.
Link: Mental Health Court Participant Handbook - It is suggested that Defense Attorneys review the Participant Handbook with their client before making a referral. This will facilitate the informed consent process.
For additional information or to make a referral to the Mental Health Court program, please contact Jason Sterwerf at 815-334-4913 or JGSterwerf@22ndcircuit.illinoiscourts.gov.
The MHC would not be possible without the McHenry County Board, Twenty Second Judicial Circuit Office of Court Administration, McHenry County Court and Probation Services, McHenry County Mental Health Board, McHenry County Department of Health, McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office, McHenry County Public Defender’s Office, McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and various community based mental health service providers.