McHenry County Mental Health Court Approaching First Anniversary

When McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi announced his campaign for re-election, one of the things he was obviously pleased about was the upcoming establishment of a mental health court.

Now, there are twice-monthly Friday after sessions of the court. There are thirteen such courts in Illinois.

Sixteen people are now in the program, according to the press release.

Now comes a press release from the McHenry County Mental Health Task Force announcing a celebration of its first anniversary is scheduled for Friday, April 4th. It will be held in the grand jury room in the state’s attorney’s office at 1:30.

There are all sorts of people and agencies involved in this effort, as you can read in the press release below:


The McHenry County Mental Health Task Force is pleased to announce that the McHenry County Health Court, which is presided over by the Honorable Judge Charles Weech of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, is celebrating its one year anniversary on April 4, 2008.

The McHenry County Mental Health Court was created by a community based effort including the

  • McHenry County Board,
  • McHenry County Mental Health Board,
  • Family Services,
  • McHenry County Health Department,
  • McHenry County 22nd Judicial Circuit Court and the
  • McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office.

As in many jurisdictions around the country, the criminal justice system in McHenry County is experiencing a rapidly growing population of offenders who have mental disorders.

For many individuals with mental health problems circulation in and out of the criminal justice system is a way of life. Jailing individuals whose offenses are related more to the symptoms of their mental illness perpetuates the cycle of offense and incarceration.

This court seeks to provide an alternative way to address non violent criminal conduct, by those with mental illnesses in providing them a support system with which to have their illnesses medically and therapeutically treated.

The Mental Health Court has a

  • case worker,
  • probation officer and
  • nurse

who each monitor the defendant’s compliance with court orders and assists defendants in maintaining their rehabilitating efforts.

In exchange for compliance with court orders and working on maintaining treatment for their mental illnesses defendant will receive a dismissal or reduction of their charges at the completion of the program.

Defendants will be under the careful supervision of the McHenry County Mental Court for a period of 18 to 24 months.

Currently the Mental Health Court has 16 participants who are at various stages of the program, with several more individuals being considered for the program.

Admission into the program occurs upon referral to the program by police officers, probation officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, jail or Judge. It is anticipated that within the next few months of the program participation will increase to 25 or 30 members involved in the program.

Presently McHenry County’s Mental Health Court is one of only thirteen in the state of Illinois. The Illinois Legislature has passed legislation for Mental Health Courts and the McHenry County Health Court operates its program within those statutory guidelines.

The Mental Health Court’s success is achieved through a community based effort of various providers including mental health professionals and organizations like

  • Family Services,
  • Pioneer Center,
  • Family Alliance,
  • Thresholds,
  • McHenry County Crisis,
  • NAMI and the like.

The fact that this program has been so successful is a testament to the cooperative spirit of these mental health agencies that provide individuals in McHenry County who have mental illness with a network of support opportunities.

The Mental Health Court is conducted on Friday afternoons twice a month at 1:30 p.m. in the McHenry County Court House before the Honorable Judge Charles Weech, who has presided over the Mental Health Court system from its inception.

A reception recognizing this anniversary will be held immediately following the Mental Health Court on April 4, 2008 in the Grand Jury Room of the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office. The press is invited.

The Mental Health Court Task Force
Sandra Salgado
Mental Health Court Task Force Chairperson

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All of the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. The one on top was at the beginning of McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi’s re-election announcement. You can see McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler at the podium and Bianchi to his right, if you click on the photo. The location is the main courtroom in the Old McHenry County Courthouse on the Woodstock Square. It is where I was sworn in as McHenry County Treasurer during the first week of December, 1966. The smiling photograph of Judge Charles Weech was taken at the wedding of Mackenzie Walter to Carlos Garcia on a very, very snowy night. On the bottom is a photograph of McHenry County Board member Sandra Salgado. I’ve also put in pictures of the Old McHenry County Courthouse, the one I served in, plus the new one.

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