1. Understand your right to representation
There are extensive legal procedures available to prevent unnecessary hospitalization and other inappropriate forms of care. The rules provide that in many cases you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer in proceedings to protect your rights.
Equip for Equality and the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission are two agencies that advocate for the rights of recipients of mental health and developmental disability treatment and services. Both of these organizations may be able to provide you with the services of a lawyer to represent you in legal proceedings to protect your rights.
2. Prepare an appeal, if available
Your right to appeal
You have the right to file an appeal if any of the following occur:
- If you are denied admission to a state-operated mental health facility because it is determined that you do not require inpatient care;
- If you disagree with a decision to discharge you from a state-operated mental health facility; or
- If you object to a proposed transfer from one state-operated facility to another.
When the appeal must be filed
If you are appealing a denial of admission to a state-operated facility, you must make the appeal in writing within 14 days of the denial. If you are appealing a proposed discharge from a state-operated facility, you can file your appeal at any time up until the date of discharge. If you are appealing a transfer between state-operated facilities, you must file your appeal before the transfer, or within 14 days after an emergency transfer.
Where to file the appeal
You must file all appeals in writing. You should file them with the director of the state-operated mental health facility.
3. Attend the appeal hearing
The appeal hearing
Within 7 days of filing your appeal, a panel of mental health professionals called a Utilization Review Committee will conduct a hearing. The hearing is informal, but you have the opportunity to testify and present witnesses and other evidence to support your case. You are entitled to be represented at the hearing.
In denial of admission cases
The program that denied your application for admission has the burden to prove that you do not need to be admitted because appropriate outpatient treatment is available and would meet your treatment needs.
In discharge cases
At the hearing, the facility director has the burden to prove the following:
- That you are no longer "a person subject to involuntary admission;" and
- That you are 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.
You cannot be discharged while you are waiting for the hearing or the decision on your appeal.
In transfer cases
- At the hearing, the facility director has the burden to prove that the transfer will not negatively affect your treatment and that your treatment needs can be met at the new facility.
- Within 3 days after the hearing, the Utilization Review Committee must prepare a written report indicating whether they vote to uphold or reverse the decision which you have appealed.
- The Committee sends a copy of this report to the director of the mental health facility.
4. Continue through the appeals process, if necessary
Appeals to the Department of Human Services
Within 7 days after receiving the Committee's report, the facility director must give you a written decision about whether he or she has agreed to accept or reject the Committee's recommendation. If the Committee recommends in your favor and the program director disagrees, the program director may file an appeal to the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). If the Committee's recommendation goes against you, then you may appeal to IDHS.
You must file your appeal to IDHS within 7 days of the program director's decision. You must make the appeal in writing, and you may send it either to the facility director or the Secretary of IDHS. Your appeal must state the reasons why you believe that the facility director's decision is incorrect. The Secretary of IDHS will not consider any new evidence, but will instead review all of the evidence considered by the Utilization Review Committee. The Secretary of IDHS will then send you a written decision within 30 days of your appeal.
Review of the IDHS decision in court
If the Secretary of IDHS upholds the decision which you appealed, you may file a complaint for administrative review in Illinois Circuit Court. You must file this Complaint within 35 days of the Secretary of IDHS's decision. You or your lawyer will have the opportunity to make written and oral arguments in support of your case. The judge will then decide whether the Secretary of IDHS fairly considered the facts and properly applied the law.
Appealing court orders
As explained above, you are entitled to a court hearing in Illinois Circuit Court if you disagree with your admission or discharge or with other issues in connection with your care.
Anytime the circuit court enters a final order, the order must be placed in writing and must include an explanation of the reason(s) that the order was entered. A copy of the order must be given to you and your lawyer. The judge must tell you and also give you a written statement explaining that you have the right to appeal the order and that you have the right to have a lawyer appointed to represent you for free if you are low-income.
Examples of final orders include:
- Disposition orders requiring you to be hospitalized or to enter alternative care;
- Orders denying your request for a change in your treatment plan;
- Orders denying your request for discharge; and
- Orders permitting your transfer.
The appeal from a final court order must be filed in the Illinois Appellate Court. You must file appeals no later than 30 days after the entry of the final court order.
Updated: February 2018