Thresholds

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug Responds to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Op Ed in Chicago Tribune

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug Responds to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Op Ed in Chicago Tribune

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug recently wrote a response to an Op Ed that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart wrote on July 29, 2014 in the Chicago Tribune. Ishaug’s letter is available on the Chicago Tribune website.

Mark Ishaug. Photo by Andrew Collings.

In his recent opinion piece, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart hit the nail on the head: By not adequately funding community-based mental health treatments and other parts of the continuum of care for people with mental illness, as well as affordable housing, in Illinois, we have effectively criminalized mental illness. We are sending people with mental illness to expensive institutions like jails, hospitals, and nursing homes with no clear path to recovery.

It is vital to realize that recovery from a serious mental illness is possible if the right treatment and support is made available. As Dart points out, even this high-level treatment is cost-effective for taxpayers, costing just a fraction of what institutionalization in jail, nursing homes or emergency rooms costs.

The estimated annual cost of community-based treatment for someone living with a serious mental illness plus affordable housing is roughly half the estimated annual cost of a year in jail or a nursing home. These institutions are not well-equipped to promote long-lasting recovery, so the cost is not reduced over time.

We need all levels of government to make a real commitment to investing in community-based treatment services and affordable housing. If we make this long-term investment, by our calculations in a recent study, the state can save more than 42 percent of the cost of providing mental health services in nursing homes or jails. The savings generated could then be reinvested into early treatment and wellness services in order to refocus the system toward early intervention, rather than costly crisis interventions that are unnecessarily flooding our jail and ER systems.

-Mark Ishaug, CEO, Thresholds, Chicago