URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — “The ultimate goal is to get those with mental illness the help they need before they even have contact with law enforcement in the first place,” Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said.

While that’s their goal, it’s still a work in progress. People across the state and in Central Illinois struggle with mental health. Now, the Illinois Supreme Court is working to address that in and around jails.

The Supreme Court formed a new mental health task force that includes stakeholders from all around the state, including Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman. They are working to determine what the need is in the county.

Sheriff Heuerman says the ultimate goal is to figure out how people can get mental health resources before they end up in jail. The sheriff said a task force had their first meeting where they discussed a plan.

By March of next year, they hope to have regionalized or localized mental health response teams. An example of this would be if someone dials 9-1-1, they are diverted to a resource that better meets their needs. All of this is to hopefully prevent such high numbers of people struggling with mental health while in jail.

“We struggle with mental health among inmates in the correctional center and the longer somebody sits in custody, it seems the more severe that mental illness gets,” Sheriff Heuerman said.

He says there is a full time mental health worker at the Champaign County Jail. They also work closely with Rosecrance to address substance abuse issues, then continue to help that person once they leave jail.

The goal right now in their process is to gather information to see what resources are needed across the state and better address the mental health need in hopes to prevent people struggling with mental health while in custody.