Cook County Jail Mental Health Center

In the United States, “budget cuts” have eliminated most of the community mental health services that up until the mid 1990’s served a vast number of uninsured, unemployed, homeless, drug and/or alcohol dependent, and otherwise disenfranchised people.

Where once these people in need of services were able to access a minimal level of care including evaluations for mental illness, medications, group and individual therapy, social work support for helping them get Medicaid, job training and placement, substance abuse treatment, and connection with community support services such as AA and NA, now all of these services have largely been shut down. 

Now, without access to mental health services, people who were formerly able to access care are left on their own.  What happens to them?

Homelessness, drug addiction, crime related to survival on the street with mental illness.

Who assumes their care?

Well, that depends on which prison they end up in, if they don’t die at the hands of “law enforcement,” other individuals, suicide, overdose, freezing to death, or other hazards of street life.

If they’re fortunate enough to live in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel in his “wisdom” shut down six of the city’s twelve community mental health centers, they go to Cook County Jail.

Please take the time to watch and **share** the video below, which documents the unique program for mentally ill inmates initiated by Cook County Jail, which now serves as Chicago’s main “Mental Health Center.”

Leave a comment


  1. Tragic. Mental illness should be treated humanely. I cannot even imagine being jailed when I’m symptomatic.

    • Nope. That’s a nightmare no-one should have to endure. They need love, warmth, food, a shower, and a bed, if they want one, and at least warm bedding if they don’t. I know street people who are too paranoid to come in. That’s OK, just make sure they have what they need, and safe houses in they need them, needle exchange and methadone if they need that. We need to stop forcing our version of reality down their throats and acknowledge that there are different kinds of people in the world. We need civilian mobile crisis teams instead of sadistic cops and jailers.

  2. This goes on a regular basis. People call the cops, they don’t get taken to the hospital but instead a jail cell. So damn sad. Patrick J Kennedy is working to get a mental health act passed to prevent this from happening

    • Wow, that would be great. Also great would be a bill holding police accountable for assaults and murders on the mentally ill, both inside and outside of jails. And ALL forms of electronic torture devices like tasers and electric belts need to be eliminated under the Geneva Convention, as well as the United States Criminal Code which specifically prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. Likewise ice water baths and scalding, random beatings, etc etc etc. I am terrified of getting arrested. If that happened I would find a way to kill myself immediately.

  3. The very same thing happened in New Mexico. Governor Martinez accused a handful of mental health providers of ripping off the state, and without any warning or notice, terminated funding and payments.

    Turns out, she was wrong, but the whole mental health system was up-ended, just like in other cities and states. Also come to find out, the private, out-of-state providers that took over were being paid back for political support of the Governor. The result was that some of these facilities ended up going bankrupt, making everything that much worse. A further result was an increase in police shootings of the mentally ill, including a homeless man who was camping. There were protests in the streets, but nothing changed.

    Politicians love to make budget cuts that impact those who can’t complain, yet they also love spending money drug testing these very same people. Freaking hypocrites, including Rahm Emanual.

    • “that impact those who can’t complain.”

      Right on the money there. I think the homeless community everywhere should follow what happened in Asheville, NC, where the homeless formed a union and garnered support among the housed. They got a bill through City Hall that gave them a bill of rights, including protection from police harassment, in exchange for agreeing to designating “no panhandling” zones so as not to scare off tourists and negatively impact businesses. As a result, a wonderful street arts culture has developed, including a schizophrenic black man who plays the saxophone randomly. He helped me one day when my narcissist mother left me (five ruptured discs) to transfer my father from his wheelchair into the car single handedly, and blithely ignored my cries for help when he slumped into the gutter. This guy put down his axe and rushed over to help us, then refused the fiver I tried to tuck into his hand.

      These cops need to be turned out on the street in Chicago in the dead of winter for a month out of every year, and see how many of them survive. Maybe they’d get a different sort of attitude. Or not.

  4. Asheville is where I gave my quilts away. I have seen the sax player. If not only police officers but public officials spent just one or two nights on the streets, they might garner an idea of what homelessness is like. I know that in some places, homeless people can feign suicidal intentions and instead of going to jail, they will be taken to the hospital. Most hospitals don’t care about their state of mind or anything else because they’re homeless but at least it is warm.

  5. This is a problem that is very close to my heart. You see, I spent two of my teenage years in a state insane asylum. I had a post-traumatic “nervous breakdown” when I was 14 years old, more than a decade before PTSD was known. In those days (pre-1970s), the answer to mental illness was to lock you up and throw away the key.

    It was… beyond horrible.

    The state institution where I spent the longest two years of my life was closed and torn down in the 1990s. In May of 2014 my husband and I drove more than 700 miles each way to the site where the insane asylum had been. I wrote about it in a post on my old blog (I am nowy in the process of changing over to my new blog on my new WP account, because my old WP account got messed up… long story):

    Here is the post I wrote about this issue:

    • Mmm… why do I proofread AFTER I post a comment, LOL? I’m tired, just got home from my visit with my daughter. It was awesome, but driving long distances all by myself is exhausting.

  6. thefeatheredsleep

     /  February 25, 2016

    I just do not understand the rationale of cutting and underfunding mental health. It is a huge inditement on the system because it harms and devalues generations of people

    • I think it’s because our dear elected officials think that if they close their eyes, the problem of mental illness will go away. It’s pure ignorance. Stupidity. It’s trampling on the rights of a disenfranchised population. We can’t fix it ourselves. We can’t even fix ourselves, let alone lobby for budget items. We need advocacy, but where is it?

  7. thefeatheredsleep

     /  February 26, 2016

    ♡♡♡not just an acquaintance ♡♡♡

  8. Thank you, Thank you!

  9. Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    If you have a friend or a loved one with a mental illness please join us in advocating for more treatment funding.

  10. Mr. Militant Negro

     /  February 27, 2016

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

  11. So not right. I fall short of wishing ME on these decision makers but damn.

    • We are the Hidden Minority. Unless we are flagrantly psychotic in the street, no one knows that we are here, in the shadows, doing the best we can with what we have.

      Demographics has a lot to do with it, yet I’ve known people “from good families” who have been shunned because they’re mentally ill, and have ended up addicted, homeless, and jailed. I know others whose families have paid for their living expenses, far enough away so that there’s no chance of their being an “embarrassment.”

      I have no clue what to do about it.

      • That is so true. Right now I am functioning…barely. I often wonder where I would be if I weren’t, yet I know and this proves…and I live in Cook Cty IL so am I lucky? Yes, it is amazing how embarrassment outweighs compassion from our own families, no? These people are in my thoughts.

        Rahm et al better hope this never happens to them.

  12. Reblogged this on mentalillinprison.

  1. Cook County Jail Mental Health Center – Br Andrew's Muses

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