Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine


  Office phone numbers:  

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.


Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

  The Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trade 60% of the world futures contracts.

Federal Government Ends Oversight of Cook County Jail’s Medical Center

Tuesday, June 26, 2018
WTTW Chicago Tonight
by Paris Schutz

Federal Government Ends Oversight of Cook County Jail’s Medical Center

Jail inmates are one of a few groups of citizens that have a constitutional right to health care coverage. As a result, a full-fledged medical center is housed within the Cook County Jail that treats every one of the 6,000-7,000 detainees that are there on a daily basis.

That medical center operated for the last eight years under supervision of the federal government because of inadequate care. But that supervision ends Tuesday, and Cook County health officials say they are now a model for the rest of the country.

Health officials almost never let reporters into their facility within the Cook County Jail for fear of breaching doctor-patient confidentiality. Their patients are the thousands of people who have been arrested and incarcerated at the jail awaiting trial. Many of them come to jail without having adequate health care.

“They’re vulnerable for substance use disorder and withdrawal, mental illness and many chronic illnesses that may not have been addressed in the community,” said Dr. Connie Mennella, chair of correctional health for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (which is the county agency that runs health care in the jail).

Mennella says many of the detainees don't know they can get health coverage. “80 percent of people who come into the jail are eligible for Medicaid coverage, and many are not aware that they may be covered or they are in fact already covered and they just need a little bit more assistance to get them through that process,” she said.

Health care screeners have signed up thousands of inmates so they can be covered when they get out of jail, according to Mennella. “We’re really trying to increase their health literacy,” she said. “We’re trying to show them these are the steps to take in order to be covered because our care is not just while they’re in custody. We want to be able to help them transition back into the community.”

Cermak resembles any other medical clinic with doctors, nurses, exam rooms in every jail division, and a fully functional pharmacy.

In 2010, the jail entered into a consent decree with the federal government after reports of inadequate treatment and staffing levels. That consent decree ends Tuesday, and Cook County health officials say they are now a model for other jails.

“We now are actually being visited by many jails and large jails throughout the country looking at our model of care because we really have worked on even going beyond the basics of what the federal government said we needed to do,” said Mennella.

A startling number of inmates are coming in with opioid addictions, and this is the first time they’ve received substance abuse treatment. It presents the daunting question: What happens to their addiction when they leave?

“Almost immediately, we deal with that,” said Mennella. “Literally in the intake process we will begin that conversation. We may say, ‘What are your plans when you’re released from custody? Do you have a primary care provider? Are you involved in a substance use treatment program?’ We will refer them to social workers so that while they are here, they can make those connections.” 

Also upon discharge, detainees are given kits and training from Cermak pharmacists on how to administer Narcan, a nasal spray, to anyone who’s overdosed from heroin or any other opioid.

Cermak health officials say that many detainees have used the spray to save the lives of family members or friends who have overdosed. It’s a tool they give detainees in hopes that they not only stay out of jail, but continue to treat their underlying illnesses.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

Related stories:

Illinois Cleared for New Mental Health, Addiction Pilot Programs

Opioid Epidemic Hits Cook County Jail

Cook County Jail Adapts to Better Address Mental Illness

Cook County Jail is Giving At-Risk Inmates Narcan Upon Their Release

Recent Headlines

Northbrook will revisit Cook County minimum wage ordinance in May
Sunday, November 18, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Suffredin: County to seek 'safeguards' for golf course road
Friday, November 16, 2018
Evanston NOW

She's been waiting 15 months for her rape kit to be processed. A new proposal to track evidence aims to change that.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Preckwinkle to unveil policy roadmap for Cook County for next five years
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

U.S. appeals judges: Go fight over lawsuits with Dorothy Brown in state court
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

COMMENTARY: Here's how the Shakman case curbed Cook County patronage
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Appeals court backs Dorothy Brown in lawsuit over public access to electronic records, says judge overstepped authority
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Chicago Tribune

What’s Next As Voters Overwhelmingly Support Higher Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Time
Monday, November 12, 2018
Journal and Topics Online

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's security chief fired after review spurred by watchdog report
Thursday, November 08, 2018
Chicago Tribune

An earlier opening day: 2019 Cook County forest preserves permits go on sale Nov. 15
Thursday, November 08, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Cook County opening 2019 picnic permit sales Nov. 15
Monday, November 05, 2018
Special to

The Cook County Land Bank looks to go commercial
Monday, November 05, 2018
RE Journal

Nov. 15 is new opening date for Cook County forest preserves permits
Monday, November 05, 2018
Daily Herald

Cook County Gun Dealer, Minimum Wage Referendums On Ballot
Monday, November 05, 2018

The Abandoned WWI Monument One Chicago Man Is Determined To Save
Friday, November 02, 2018
Chicago Patch

Cook County freed from federal oversight
Thursday, November 01, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

First-of-its-kind trauma recovery center serves survivors of domestic violence, hate crimes, sexual assault, gun violence in Cook County
Monday, October 29, 2018

Northbrook opts in to Cook County paid sick leave ordinance, more uncertainty for employers, lawyer says
Monday, October 29, 2018
Cook County Record

First-of-its-kind Advocate Trauma Recovery Center serves survivors of domestic violence, hate crimes, sexual assault, gun violence in Cook County
Monday, October 29, 2018
WLS Channel 7

Cook County sheriff, CVS team up on safe prescription painkiller disposal
Saturday, October 27, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.