Annual Law Review Symposium 2014: Building the Solution: Connecting the Pieces of Mental Health Law to Improve Mental Health Services

On Friday, March 21, the DePaul Law Review hosted its 24th Annual Law Review Symposium. This year, the Law Review was pleased to host the event on Mental Health Law and entitled the event: Building the Solution: Connecting the Pieces of Mental Health Law to Improve Mental Health Services. The event specifically addressed the hot topics in mental health law from the perspectives of the foremost professionals who continuously work within the area to improve mental health services. While the topics spanned across many spheres of mental health law, topics were chosen with the goal of gaining a better understanding of this area of law and effectively improving mental health services. The event garnered much attention from the community and over 125 people attended in person.

The featured speaker of the event was Professor Mark Heyrman from the University of Chicago Law School. Professor Heyrman’s presentation was entitled “Show Me The Money! Why the Legal Standards and Procedures for Involuntary Treatment Mean Very Little, But the Availability of Services Means a Lot.” Professor Heyrman focused on deinstitutionalization of those with mental illnesses, touching on varying commitment standards throughout the years, why lowering the commitment standard will not work, the idea of outpatient commitment, and, most importantly, the underfunding of mental health services.

The first panel was entitled “Confronting Mental Health Challenges in the Criminal Justice System” and moderated by Professor Jan Brakel. James Carpenter, a member of the first graduating class of the McHenry County Mental Health Court, spoke first on how instrumental the Mental Health Court was in his recovery. Next, Judge Paul Biebel, the presiding Judge of the Cook County Criminal Court and one of the founders of the Cook County Felony Mental Health Court, spoke on the goals of the Mental Health Court and its positive influence on those with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. Following Judge Biebel, Dr. Anderson Freeman, Deputy Director for Forensic Services for the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health, spoke on forensic issues within the criminal justice system and purported solutions. Finally, Dr. Melvin Hinton, the Chief of Mental Health for the Illinois Department of Correction, discussed the reality of mental health offenders in the criminal justice system and what solutions are necessary to improve the system as a whole.

After the first panel, Dr. Daniel Yohanna, Associate Professor and Vice Chair at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, presented on the future of psychiatry. Dr. Yohanna touched on the prohibitive nature of the cost of healthcare, lack of access to psychiatric care, the necessity of integration of services, and the desire to switch to a single payer model to curb the costs of services.

During lunch, several of the speakers from the event joined together for a lunch panel. The lunch panel was a half-hour long question and answer segment where the different speakers were able to collaborate together and discuss and develop solutions that integrated a variety of the topics. This was the overarching goal of the Symposium and was an interesting way to see the connection of the various topics and how a collaborative plan could be successful.

The second panel was entitled “Changes in Confidentiality of Mental Health Records.” The first speaker was Rob Connor, the Deputy General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Human Services. Mr. Connor spoke on the Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) reporting requirements, including new data elements and record layout. Next, Beth LaRocca, General Counsel of the Governor’s Office of Health Innovation and Transformation, and Kerri McBride, General Counsel of the Illinois Health Information Exchange Authority, presented on the Illinois Health Information Exchange and Technology Act, providing an overview of the Act, discussing House Bill 1017 that amended the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act, and the opt-in provisions for specially protected health information. Finally, Joseph Monahan, founder of the Monahan Law Group, LLC, spoke on legal and ethical challenges for mental health practitioners and what the road forward looks like in terms of confidentiality of records. The event was moderated by Professor Bruce Ottley of the DePaul College of Law. 

The next speaker was Ben Wolf, Director and Chief Legal Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois' Institutionalized Persons Project. Mr. Wolf discussed why litigation is an essential tool in Illinois, legal theories supporting class action efforts to transform broken mental health systems, and two Illinois cases seeking to transform the State’s mental health system.

The final panel of the afternoon was entitled “Delivery of Integrated Behavioral Health Services: Making Managed Care Work in Illinois.” The first panelist was Robert Mendonsa, Deputy Administrator of Care Coordination Rate and Finance for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Mr. Mendonsa discussed Medicaid reform law, the need to redesign how Medicaid works, and changes in integration of behavioral health services in managed care models. Next, Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds, Chicago’s oldest and largest provider of services for people with severe mental illness, provided an overview of community mental health services, the effects of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, and future opportunities with Managed Care Organizations. Finally, David Jose, a Partner at Krieg DeVault, LLP in Indianapolis, spoke on barriers to effective care transitions, types of integrated services delivery, and legal issues concerning integrated care, including records, compliance, Anti-Kickback, and Stark. The featured speaker, Professor Mark Heyrman, moderated the panel.

Dr. Michael Fogel, Associate Professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, provided a creative wrap-up to the Symposium, touching on the media’s portrayal of people with mental illnesses and bringing the event full-circle by discussing the most prominent issue: lack of funding. Dr. Fogel ended his presentation with a call to act, quoting President John F. Kennedy’s famous words: “Let us not despair but act.” 

Overall, the Law Review Symposium was a monumental success and brought the major legal issues affecting mental health law to the forefront of discussion. With the collaboration and cooperation of the various fields working within mental health law, services can by effectively improved. The DePaul Law Review would like to thank all of the speakers and attendees of the Symposium for making this a wonderful and inspiring event!

If you missed this year’s Annual Law Review Symposium, check out the recording at the link below: http://condor.depaul.edu/mptvideo/LAW/HLI/03212014/03212014.html