Cook County Sheriff’s office is launching a new mental health clinic in the south suburbs. Sheriff Tom Dart says the clinic is a direct response to government mental health cuts.
The clinic is already operating at the Markham Courthouse. People detained there will be screened for mental health needs. Some will then be diverted from the jail to the new clinic under court order. The clinic will also be available to people leaving county jail and seeking services.
“If no one else is going to do it, we are going to,” said Cara Smith, director of Cook County Jail.
She says the jail is doing what it can, but it’s part of a larger system. She says the millions of dollars in proposed state cuts to mental health would be catastrophic. But if the cuts go through it will not be the first time she’s seen services disappear. In 2012 the city cut half its mental health clinics, and just last week one of the largest mental health providers in Chicago announced it was closing its doors.
“Our custodial population in the jail is almost at a record low. But our population of medically and mentally ill people that need hospital level care is at an all time high,” said Smith.
It is not only the jail that says it has felt a change as services have closed. Emergency Rooms in Chicago saw a 37 percent rise in ER discharges for psychiatric care.
Dart says he chose to open the clinic in the south suburbs because the area is extremely lacking in mental health services. The clinic is run in collaboration with Adler Community Health Services.
Shannon Heffernan is a reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @shannon_h