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updated: 8/5/2014 10:25 PM

Top Kane prosecutor wants more staff for mental health cases

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Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon wants county leaders to approve hiring a full-time prosecutor to handle mental health commitment cases and those in a court for nonviolent offenders.

McMahon hopes to have funding for a new position to add to his 53-lawyer staff for the coming fiscal year, which begins Dec. 1.

The attorney would primarily handle cases from the Treatment Alternative Court, which is for nonviolent offenders who have mental health issues, and civil commitment cases involving people who do not want to take doctor-prescribed medication.

"There's always dual goals," McMahon said. "One is to hold them responsible, but the other goal, just as important, is to work with them to understand the issues, I guess. Follow up with their medical treatment ... really keep them out of the criminal justice system.

"The sheriff does a great job trying to manage that population but they're not equipped to provide psychiatric or psychological services in the jail. A lot of these people need longer term counseling."

McMahon said the Treatment Alternative Court has a closer level of supervision than some of the county's other diversion programs. Offenders' convictions will remain after completion of the program.

"The goal there is get them back on track with their treatment, to not self-medicate," he said, "There is a high correlation between individuals with a mental health issue and involvement in the criminal justice system."

Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress addressed the issue last fall after one of her attorneys resigned. Childress said she rearranged some duties in her office so a position could be devoted civil commitment cases and Sexually Violent Persons cases, which are usually prosecuted by the Illinois attorney general's office. A different assistant public defender handles cases that would go to Treatment Alternative Court.

"We used to have a rotation of attorneys who handled those (cases)," Childress said.

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