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9,000 Ill. inmates enroll in Obamacare

Cook County Sheriff laments lack of access to treatment for mentally ill prisoners

By C1 Staff

COOK COUNTY, Ill. — Rising mental health problems at the Cook County Jail have prompted nearly 9,000 inmates to sign up for Obamacare, according to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

NBC Chicago reports that Dart said that health care services for the mentally ill have been carved back so much, that there’s next to nothing left. This leaves little besides eventual incarceration for those who need help.

“I run the largest mental health hospital in the state of Illinois and maybe in the country, and I’m a history major who didn’t seek to become a late-in-life doctor,” Dart said of his jail’s current mental health crisis. “But yet I’m the one overseeing this.”

According to Dart, 3,000 out of 10,000 inmates need mental health care and pointed to the closures of mental health facilities as the main reason for the huge influx of mentally ill inmates.

He credits Obamacare with giving the jail “the ability to at least have care paid for – if they can find it someplace that’s still open. But that’s the big problem, to find a place that’s still open.”

Dart is part of a movement to reform the broken U.S. prison system that offers limited access to mental health treatment, in addition to overcrowding, harsh prison sentences and a disproportionate number of non-white inmates.

“There’s no psychologist in the world – or psychiatrist – who would suggest that say a treatment plan for, say, someone with schizophrenia is ‘Let’s put them in a four-by-eight concrete room with a complete stranger who has a different diagnosis and let’s see what happens over the course of the next few months,” Dart said.

“Nobody would do that.”

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