New Study Shows Mental Illness Prevalent in Jail Populations; Cook County Mental Health Court Offers Solutions

(Chicago, IL) — Nearly a third of women entering jail have a serious mental illness, according to a study released June 1 by the nonpartisan Council of State Governments Justice Center and Policy Research Associates.

Thirty-one percent of women and 14.5 percent of males —or 16.9 percent overall—were found to have serious mental illness with a need for comprehensive and continuous treatment, according to the report.

These estimates are three to six times higher than the general population, and indicate that as many as two million bookings of people with serious mental illnesses may occur each year. The findings, published in the journal Psychiatric Services, underscore the necessity of addressing the health needs of individuals with mental illnesses.

COOK COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH COURT TEAM.  Front, left to right: TASC Case Managers Dion Graham and

COOK COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH COURT TEAM *

In Cook County (IL), a national model Mental Health Court continues to impress five years after its inception.

Mental Health Court graduates are being arrested less and are spending fewer days in police custody, saving the public $275,000 per graduate in reduced custody costs, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.  A year after graduation, felony arrests for Mental Health Court graduates dropped by 93 percent and felony convictions decreased by 96 percent.

On May 12, the court recognized 15 new graduates at a commencement ceremony, bringing to 55 the total number of people who have successfully completed the program.

Mental Health Court is a two-year, voluntary probation program for offenders who have drug addictions and serious, chronic mental health problems. Participants receive psychiatric treatment, intensive supervision, TASC case management, and other rehabilitative services from a team of professionals comprised of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, police, social workers, case managers, and mental health and drug treatment providers.

“The program keeps getting better,” said Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr. of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, who played a crucial leadership role in establishing the court. “We work with more difficult clients from year to year, and, because of the expertise and commitment of this extraordinary team, the results keep improving.”

Pictured:  Front, left to right: TASC Case Managers Dion Graham and Pamela Ewing, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Clayton J. Crane. Back, left to right: Cook County Adult Probation Officer Michelle Hargon, TASC Case Manager Kyle Higgins, TASC Supervisor Al Pizza, Judge Thomas V. Gainer, Jr., and Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr.   Not pictured: Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys Emily Cole and Rebecca Quintero; Cook County Assistant Public Defenders Michelle Hendrickson and Paru Desai; and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Director of Treatment Programs Mark Kammerer, plus community-based mental health and drug treatment providers.

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