McLean County board tackles mental health issue

By Katherine Tellez

February 11, 2014 Updated Feb 12, 2014 at 1:30 PM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- The McLean County jail is the biggest provider of mental health services in the county.

The county board wants to change that.

McLean County board Chairman Matt Sorensen said cuts to mental health services across the country have created problems for government institutions, especially jails.

Inmates at the McLean County jail with mental illness are kept in the booking area.

Sheriff Mike Emery said that's only making the situation worse, but there's no where else to put them.

"We are kind of contributing to their illness because we were not providing them in an area of the jail where treatment could be more effective," Emery said.

The county has formed two new advisory groups to tackle two key issues.

The first will look at existing services and identify areas where they fall short.

The second group will look at different services across the country and find ones that could work in McLean County.

Sorensen said in order to solve the jail problem, community needs have to be addressed first.

"We know we're going to have to deal with the jail issue, that's inevitable. But at the same time, we know there's a much bigger root cause which is the lack of mental health services and the availability of mental health services. That's what we're really trying to solve for," Sorensen said.

The two groups are expected to make recommendations for new programs in the next few months.

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