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How to Appeal Mental Health Care Decisions in Illinois | Mental Health Service Complaints Explained

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Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article, we explain how to appeal mental health care decisions in Illinois.  We explain how to appeal involuntary commitment to a mental health facility in Illinois and how to appeal the denial of mental health services in Illinois. 

How to Appeal Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility in Illinois

If you have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, have been denied a request for discharge, have been denied a request for a change in treatment plan or have been subject to other forms of mistreatment by a mental health facility you or your loved ones have the right to file a complaint in Illinois Circuit Court. 

By filing a complaint, you are asking the court to order the facility to stop the undesirable behavior.  After filing the complaint, a hearing will be held at which you will have the opportunity to show that the involuntary commitment or other behavior by the mental health facility is wrongful.  To learn more about this, check out our article: Involuntary Commitment to a Mental Health Facility in Illinois.  

Note that in order to challenge certain actions by mental health facilities related to the denial of care, you must go through an administrative appeal process, as described below, before filing a complaint with the circuit court.  

How to Appeal the Denial of Mental Health Care Services in Illinois  

Before filing a complaint with the Illinois Circuit Court, you have to file an administrative appeal. You may have the right to file an appeal if one of the following is true: 

·       You are denied admission to a state-operated mental health facility because it is determined that you do not require inpatient care.

·       You disagree with a decision to discharge you from a state-operated mental health facility. 

·       You object to a proposed transfer from one state-operated facility to another. 

If you are appealing a denial of admission to a state-operated facility, your appeal has to be filed within 14 days of the denial. If you are appealing a proposed discharge from a state-operated facility, your appeal can be filed anytime up until the date of discharge. If you are appealing the transfer between state-operated facilities, your appeal has to be filed before the transfer, or within 14 days after an emergency transfer. 

Appeals must be filed in writing with the director of the state-operated mental health facility. Once you submit your appeal, a panel of mental health professionals called a Utilization Review Committee must conduct a hearing within 7 days of the appeal submission. The hearing is informal, but you can testify and present witnesses and other evidence to support your appeal. You are entitled and encouraged to have legal representation at the hearing. 

In regards to the denial of admission, the director of the state-operated mental health facility has to prove that you do not need to be admitted because appropriate outpatient treatment is available and would satisfy your treatment needs. 

In regards to the decision of discharge, the director has to prove that you are 1) no longer a “person subject to involuntary admission” and 2) safely able to live independently, or that you will need assistance in your daily activities and suitable arrangements have been made to provide this assistance. The facility cannot discharge you before the hearing or a decision has been made regarding your appeal. 

In regards to transferring from one state-operated facility to another, the director has to prove that the transfer will not negatively affect your treatment, and your treatment needs can be met at the new facility. The Utilization Review Committee has three days after the hearing to prepare a written report stating whether they vote to uphold or reverse the decision you appealed. This report is then sent to the director of the mental health facility. Once the facility director receives the committee’s report, he or she has 7 days to give you a written decision about whether or not he or she accepts or rejects the committee’s recommendation. If the committee rules in your favor, and the facility director disagrees, he or she has the right to file an appeal to the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). If the committee rules against your appeal, you also have the right to file an appeal to the IDHS. 

If you wish to appeal to the IDHS, you must do so within 7 days of the facility director’s decision. The appeal must be in writing, and you can send it to the facility director or the Secretary of IDHS. In the appeal, you’ll state why you believe the facility director’s decision is incorrect. The Secretary of IDHS does not consider new evidence, but instead reviews all of the evidence considered by the original Utilization Review Committee. The Secretary of IDHS will send you a written decision within 30 days of your appeal. 

How to File a Complaint with the Illinois Circuit Court

If the Secretary of IDHS upholds the decision you appealed, you can file a complaint about administrative review in Illinois Circuit Court within 35 days of the Secretary of IDHS’s decision. You or your lawyer can make both written and oral arguments in support of your case, and the judge will decide whether the Secretary of IDHS fairly considered the facts and properly applied the law. This final order must be made in writing, including an explanation of the reason(s) that the order was entered, and you have the right to appeal the order with appointed legal representation. An appeal from a final court order must be filed in the Illinois Appellate Court no later than 30 days after the entry of the final court order. 

How to File a Complaint with the IDHS

Violations of recipient’s rights occurring in DHS-operated facilities can be reported to the Illinois Department of Human Services by dialing 1-800-368-1463 or (312) 815-3784 or writing to Williams Consent Decree at 401 S. Clinton Street, 2ndFloor, Chicago, Illinois 60607. A complaint regarding the violation of a recipient’s rights is considered a “grievance.” Once you submit your complaint, the DMH will ask you a series of questions about your concerns in order to gather more details about your case. If you would like another person to speak to the DMH on your behalf, you can designate someone to speak on your behalf. If your complaint needs to be reported to another organization, the DMH team members will help you get in touch with the right contacts. The DMH is required by law to report all cases of abuse or neglect to the Office of Inspector General. Once the DMH’s investigation is complete, you will receive a letter with the results of their findings. 

How to File a Complaint with the U.S. Attorney General

The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to investigate and take legal action against any government-operated facility that violates the rights of recipients of mental health and developmental disability treatment and services. Although the Attorney General cannot investigate isolated incidents with one individual, he or she can become involved if there’s evidence of repeated and severe violations of residents’ rights. 

To file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney General, you can contact the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division by dialing (202) 514-6255 or writing to 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Special Litigation Section – PHB, Washington, D.C. 20530. 

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