Archive for the ‘mental health issues’ Category

Bill would allow “concerned parties” to petition to detain individuals with mental illness

October 28, 2013

Family members and concerned parties could get the right to petition county officials to detain individuals with mental illnesses in an emergency if a new bill is approved by the Legislature.

The bill, which received a public hearing Tuesday along with 11 other bills, would not only allow law enforcement officers to take mentally ill individuals into custody but would also allow any “interested parties” to petition for emergency detentions.

The bill would empower families to help individuals who are in imminent danger and gives such parties the opportunity to challenge the county’s decision, bill sponsor Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, said. 

Assembly Committee on Health member Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said she is concerned the bill’s language of “interested parties” is too broad because it could essentially allow any person to file a petition.

Jagler said he intends to clarify the language used, but intends for the interested parties to include family members and attending physicians.

Counties are also required to respond to the party’s request within 24 hours and provide a written response if their request is turned down under the bill. Parties would then be able to petition the court if their request is turned down and a judge could decide whether a temporary hold of the individual is necessary.

Sarah Diedrick-Kasdorf, senior legislative associate for the Wisconsin Counties Association, said it is possible counties would turn down requests because county employees are already working with the individuals but cannot reveal such records because of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Diedrick-Kasdorf said the bill could also likely lead to an increase in emergency detentions because families would have no other option if their request was denied.

Counties would also be required to pay court and attorney fees if their response to a family’s request is reversed by a judge, which would dramatically increase costs for counties, Todd Liebman, corporation counsel for Sauk County, said.

Taylor said she is concerned about the costs for the county, as Dane County already struggles with funding for mental healthcare.

“When I first read this, I thought, ‘This is going to cost a fortune for the counties,’” Taylor said.

Jagler said the payment of fees is a financial safeguard, since the “loser” of the petition, whether it be the family or the county, pays the court costs.

Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, said there is also a possibility of frivolous suits, such as a husband or wife in a contentious divorce trying to detain their significant other.

“When you’re talking about personal situations where someone is lying out of spite, that would be a felony,” Jagler said of Strachota’s example. “To give false testimony to try to get somebody committed is a felony. If a person tries to go down this avenue to get somebody detained, the court costs would go to the petitioner, but if a judge agrees with the petitioner, the county would pay the court costs.”

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Bill would allow “concerned parties” to petition to detain individuals with mental illness

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Illinois judges seeking assistance at faster pace

June 25, 2013

SPRINGFIELD — The cocaine-induced death of a downstate Illinois judge in March and the arrest last month of a colleague on drug-related charges comes at a time when more attorneys than ever are seeking help for mental health issues and addiction problems.

According to the most recent annual report of the Illinois Lawyers Assistance Program, which helps find treatment for attorneys, 299 new cases were opened during the most recent fiscal year, the most of any time in the agency’s 32-year history.

Janet Piper Voss, executive director of the assistance program, attributes the increase to a rise in awareness of the program and an acceptance that treatment is a better option than hiding problems.
But, she said, judges often are a different breed.

“They are very concerned about letting anyone know there is a problem,” Voss said. “And they tend to be more isolated in their work setting.”

Joe Christ, 49, had been an associate judge in St. Clair County for less than a month before he died of a cocaine overdose in March. The Illinois State University graduate was a county prosecutor for nearly two decades before his elevation to the bench.

Christ’s body was recovered at a hunting lodge in Pike County owned by the parents of St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook, 45, who has since been charged with possessing a weapon while using a controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of heroin.

According to a review of disciplinary action against judges at the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, the behavior of the two men would be considered among the most egregious when compared to cases going back for decades.

Since 1973, there have been 82 cases filed against wayward judges by the inquiry board.
Of them, only one other judge was connected to a drug-related crime.

In October 1996, Cook County Associate Judge Frank Edwards was nabbed for transporting marijuana at an airport in Belize.

A review of inquiry board documents shows 12 judges have been penalized over the past 40 years for allegations of alcohol abuse. Of those, cases against five judges were filed in the past decade.

Other inquiry board findings center on issues ranging from the attempted use of judicial clout to the mistreatment of people in their courtrooms.

In 2006, for example, the board opened an inquiry into Logan County Associate Judge Donald Behle, who was accused of having dated a woman while presiding over her divorce and child custody case. He also faced an allegation that he contacted a witness in a case in which he was the presiding judge.
The case was closed in 2007 after Behle resigned from office.

Among the highest-profile cases of the inquiry board was the 1997 censure of James Heiple, the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Heiple was accused of trying to use his position to keep from being charged with a traffic violation.
But those cases affected judges who remained in office after they were investigated.

Once a judge leaves office, the inquiry board loses jurisdiction over the case. That means a judge accused of a drug-related crime might not be investigated by board.

“There could be others because they left (the job,)” said Kathy Twine, executive director of the Judicial Inquiry Board.

Former Sangamon County Associate Judge Philip Schickendanz serves as an example. He resigned in 1990 after being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and cocaine possession.

He eventually was stripped of his law license by a separate agency, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

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Illinois judges seeking assistance at faster pace