Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Untreated Mental Illness; Making The System Work In Illinois

The local newspaper entry read....."___________ was arrested and charged with harassment by telephone after he allegedly called Village Hall and left several extended messages, according to police. Police had warned him in the past to have no further contact with Village Hall unless it was for legitimate purposes."

The above is a common occurrence when Villages have persons thought to suffer from mental health illness living untreated within their community.  I think starting with a definition of mental illness will aid in this discussion.

In Illinois a mental illness is defined as....

(405 ILCS 5/1-129)Sec. 1-129. Mental illness. "Mental illness" means a mental, or emotional disorder that substantially impairs a person's thought, perception of reality, emotional process, judgment, behavior, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life, but does not include a developmental disability, dementia or Alzheimer's disease absent psychosis, a substance abuse disorder, or an abnormality manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct.

(Source: P.A. 93-573, eff. 8-21-03.)(405 ILCS 5/3-601) (from Ch. 91 1/2, par. 3-601)

So the idea of people with mental illness living within a community shouldn't be news to anyone.  In fact, based on the above definition, there are likely thousands of community members who fall under that definition but who are receiving appropriate treatment and are fully and positively engaged in the process; they are for all practical purposes said to be in remission.

What happens however when an individual meets the above standard but is not fully engaged in treatment or feels they are not in need of treatment?  Practically speaking, as long as they aren't affecting others, they tend to pretty much stay to themselves and suffer more or less in silence.  However, in the example from the newspaper above, sometimes these folks do affect others and in very potentially damaging ways.  What happens then?  And who decides the person needs mental health treatment of some kind?  That'll be the subject of section two of this post later this week.

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