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Illinois State Representative David Leitch:  When the local (Peoria) state hospital was closing in 2002, Rep. Leitch organized a meeting of mental health providers to plan for community based treatment and ensure community agencies and hospitals were adequately funded to deliver treatment in the community.

Most importantly, Rep. Leitch viewed the Zeller Mental Health closure as an opportunity to build a community model for a modern, comprehensive, integrated recovery-focused mental health system. The vision is to use our recovery based model as an example which can be used statewide to transform the present Illinois system, which is archaic, expensive, and totally ineffective in terms of achieving recovery.

For nine years, the group has convened and Rep. Leitch has led a 1 ½ hour weekly meeting involving community behavioral health providers and NAMI. Each member can set agenda items; problems related to community based treatment are discussed and solutions are thoroughly pursued.

Among the issue and problems addressed and resolved by discussion, not through increased spending, are:

  • Transportation of patients from commercial hospitals to state facilities
  • “Whom do you call” when one becomes aware of a mental illness in the family?
  • Recruiting additional psychiatrists to practice in Peoria, especially child psychiatrists
  • Developed flow charts necessary to understand the paperwork and steps required by state programs for access to programs including: SASS, Chip, guilty but mentally ill, transporation and other services
  • Assisting Children’s Home Association, Pediatric Resource Center, Federally Qualified Healthcare Clinic and Human Service Center with support letters to gain additional mental health services funding
    Smooth transition of children and adults from hospitalization to outpatient care
  • Advocate for a mental health court (now established)
  • Advocate for psychiatric residency at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (now underway).

Also, he

  • organized a separate group which meets monthly for a discussion and education meeting involving CEO’s and Agency Directors representing more than 15 agencies, hospital Behavioral Health, NAMI, Sheriff’s Office, School Administrators, local “Joining Forces for Children” committee heads, a Regional Manger of State Div. of Mental Health, industry representatives, Department of Public Health, federally qualified health clinic, State Rehabilitative Services, county jail superintendents, Mental Health Association, regional employers, and Caterpillar Inc.
  • Obtained a volunteer publicity rep who has placed articles in area medical magazines and newspapers; and has arranged radio and TV show interviews
  • Sponsored an evening educational session, attended by families, media, providers and case managers, about how to educate the public to reduce stigma

In addition to conducting a forum for discussion, Representative Leitch keeps participants focused on defining the incremental improvements each entity can make happen.

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