Mental Health Overview

There are several areas of the Circuit Court of Cook County dedicated to hearing mental health cases and providing mental health-related programs and services.

County Division Civil Mental Health Proceedings

Civil mental health cases, which include petitions for involuntary commitment, petitions for involuntary treatment and emergency requests to have individuals transported to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, are heard in the County Division. 

Go to County Division

Adult Probation Department Mental Health Unit

Mental Health Unit (MHU) supervision is a specialized probation program that focuses on individuals with severe and chronic mental illness. This type of supervision is a sentencing option separate from the Problem Solving Courts in key ways. 

Go to Adult Probation Department

Mental Health Specialty Court Program

The mental health branch of the specialty courts assists individuals arrested for nonviolent, nonsexual felonies who have some level of mental health issues and problems with alcohol or other drugs.

Go to Problem-Solving Courts

Juvenile Mental Health Programs

Northwestern is the mental health provider at the JTDC and provides a range of services that include comprehensive mental health evaluations, medication management and more. 

Go to Juvenile Temporary Detention Program

FAQS for the Self-Represented

    It is a court order for a person with a mental illness to be taken (or transported) to a medical facility and examined by a psychiatrist or other qualified examiner. The person must be examined within 24 hours of being brought to the hospital.

    A petition requesting the order must be filed with the court. For assistance in filing a petition in Cook County, contact the State's Attorney's Office, Special Prosecutions Bureau, Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Unit. The phone number is (312) 603-8600, and its office is located at 69 W. Washington St., Suite 3130, Chicago, IL, 60602. (Call first as this location may change.) Office hours are from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and same day walk-ins are accepted until 1:30 p.m. You may also hire a private attorney on your own.

    Yes, the person who files the petition is required to give testimony under oath before a judge who will determine whether the facts of the case meet the requirements of the Mental Health Code. In court documents, the person who files the petition is referred to as the "petitioner," and the person with the mental illness emergency is referred to as the "respondent."

    If the order for detention and examination or "writ" is granted, it directs law enforcement, generally the police of the municipality where the respondent (the person with the mental illness emergency) is located, to transport the respondent to the identified hospital for a psychiatric examination.

    The petitioner must give the order for detention and examination issued at the court hearing to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

    The order for detention and examination remains in effect for 72 hours from the time it is signed by the judge. If the 72 hours expire without the person with the mental illness (respondent) being transported to the hospital, it may be necessary to start the process again by filing a new petition.

    The respondent must be examined by a psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professional. The purpose of the examination is to determine whether the respondent will be released or admitted to the facility. If it is determined that the respondent is in need of immediate hospitalization to protect such person or others from physical harm, the medical health professional will execute a "certificate" stating that the respondent is subject to involuntary admission on an inpatient basis. According to the Mental Health Code, the respondent may be detained for no more than 24 hours unless a certificate is filed.

    Not every respondent brought to the hospital on an order for detention and examination is admitted to the facility and treated. If no certificate is filed stating that the respondent is subject to involuntary admission on an inpatient basis, the respondent must be released.



    The Center for Disability and Elder Law
    Mental Health Pro Bono Program 
    (312) 767-7013

    Will connect families with a pro bono attorney who can offer legal information and advice on different options such as guardianship, orders for detention and examination and inpatient and outpatient commitment.

    Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission

    • Information on Advance Directives such as Declarations for Mental Health Treatment and Power of Attorney for Health Care (Click here.)
    • Legal Advocacy Services (LAS) attorneys represent patients in civil mental health proceedings

    National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
    (800) 950-6264
    NAMI Chicago:
    NAMI Metro Suburban (Cook County western suburbs):
    NAMI Cool County (Cook County north suburbs):

    • Nation's largest mental health organization
    • Advocates for services and treatment
    • Supports raising awareness and outreach