CHICAGO (CBS) — Hoping to fill a void in behavioral health treatment after years of budget cuts and closures, Cook County has opened a new clinic aimed at keeping people with mental illness and drug issues out of Cook County Jail, which has been described as the nation’s largest mental health hospital.

The new Community Triage Center at 115th Street and Indiana Avenue will provide services for people who are at risk of going to jail because of a mental health condition or substance abuse problem.

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Dr. Kenya Key, chief of psychology at Cermak Health Services – the hospital at Cook County Jail – said the new 24/7 clinic hopes to interrupt what she calls “crisis cycles,” which all too often end with someone with mental health issues behind bars.

“We want individuals with mental health conditions – that may be acting out because they’re not stable – to be able to get the help they need instead of being sent to Cook County Jail. That should not be where mentally ill people are getting treatment,” she said.

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The clinic will allow the Chicago Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to bring in people suffering a mental health episode or substance abuse issue, or anyone else who might require care provided at the center. It also will offer follow-up care for people released from the jail.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cut the ribbon on the clinic on Tuesday, although it has been open since late summer. Police have been bringing detainees to the center for weeks.