Taking his message beyond Cook County, Sheriff Thomas Dart seeks to educate the entire country on the successes and lessons learned through implementing measures to improve mental health recognition, treatment and proactive management to overcome operational and cost challenges within the Cook County Department of Corrections. In Dart’s own inspirational words – If we can achieve such meaningful progress in the second most populous American county, it can be done anywhere!
Turning on the news on any given day provides tragic reminders of mental health stigma plaguing American society. Even more devastating, stigma is the most damaging to those personally suffering from mental illness. Those caught within the criminal justice system feel shame and the sense that they are all alone. Sheriff’s Dart’s groundbreaking investment in therapeutic measures to build self-worth and proactive management of mental health issues has proven successful.
Sheriff Dart oversees a population of more than 12,000, including inmates housed on-site and within alternative programs. There are approximately 2,500-3,000 people with diagnosed mental illness housed in the jail on any given day – making it the largest defacto mental health facility in the country.
In an open letter to Jail Directors nationwide, Sheriff Dart navigates the reader through a permanent solution to the mental health crisis within our corrections systems. Dart’s solutions have yielded a 20% drop in the jail population, a decline in recidivism rates among the mentally ill population, and a reduction in operational costs.
Sheriff Dart closes his letter,
“Together, we can achieve significant reform and send a strong message to our legislative counterparts that we will no longer allow our institutions to devolve into repositories for the poorest, sickest and most vulnerable among us.”
There is no doubt Sheriff Dart is a true champion of change. Proof of concept is captured within the Cook County Jail Transition Center treatment program. The Transition Center treatment program aims to discharge inmates with enhanced self-esteem and renewed vigor to maintain happy, healthy lives outside of the criminal justice system. Programming spans one-on-one and group counseling encouraging inmates to freely discuss their shared experiences and fears, photography and urban farming courses, and art therapy to encourage visual expression and seeing the world in a new light.
Challenging notions surrounding mental health stigma coupled with bold and creative solutions to address mental health among jails is the voice Sheriff Dart brings to the conversation.
Inspiring, innovator, changemaker. Sheriff Dart will bring his message and vivacious spirit as the Keynote Speaker at the Illinois Lawyer’s Assistance Programs Annual Dinner this November 15th 2017.
Join the Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP) in celebration of LAP Volunteers, Supporters, and Clients at the LAP Annual Dinner! The event will be held at the Union League of Chicago, includes a reception at 5:30PM and dinner following at 6:30PM. https://2017lapannualdinner.eventbrite.com>Tickets, Tables and Sponsorships are available.