CHICAGO (CBS) — Some mentally ill people detained at Cook County Jail have begun receiving the kind of support they need when they return to the community.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has long called Cook County Jail the largest mental health facility in America. In July, his office opened the Strength and Wellness Center at the Erie Family Health Center, a support program his office has started in Humboldt Park for detainees who are released for good, or who on electronic monitoring.
“There’s 30 people that come here right now for their appointments. They come here for treatment and help, and the results are going to be phenomenal. We already know it. We’ve been studying all the other individuals who’ve been in our programs, and the people that have been in our programs – who we maintain in our programs – the recidivism rate falls off the cliff,” he said.
The sheriff said, thanks to a donated van, the program also provides transportation for people who have difficulty getting to their treatment sessions.
“To bring to detainees, mental health services that they need, especially those that are on electronic monitoring is really a great service,” said Ald. Roberto Maldanado (26th), who helped bring the Strength and Wellness Center to Humboldt Park.
Dart said he hopes to be able to expand the support program countywide. According to the sheriff, there are approximately 2,500 mentally ill detainees in the jail at any one time.
“This was something we dreamed of, which was to have a thoughtful plan in place; instead of this farce where we dump mentally ill people in jails, have them there for a period of time, then throw them into the streets, and then act surprised that they’re back with us,” Dart said.
The sheriff said none of the people who have used the program in Humboldt Park has ended up back in the criminal justice system.
“We’re the baton that gets passed from the jail to the community, and our goal is to make sure that people are re-entering the community with the support system that they need,” said Ellie Petacque Montgomery, director of mental health policy and advocacy for the sheriff’s office.