Sandy has a long-standing focus on helping those living with serious mental illness, particularly those in the criminal justice system.
At Lake County jail, like many other jails and prisons across the country, there is a lack of providers to treat this vulnerable population and a shortage of inpatient beds. When a person is in crisis and law enforcement gets involved, there is no place to take them other than a hospital emergency department or the jail.
People with mental illnesses spend more time in jail, are more likely to return, and cost the system two to three more—and they are still not getting the help they need. When we remember that this is an illness, it is easy to see that there must be a better way. In 2018, the Lake County Health Department received 4,289 crisis calls from persons seeking mental health assistance.
Sandy is working toward developing an alternative to incarceration or emergency rooms for people in mental health crisis. She is working with an outstanding group of dedicated people—social workers, judges, law enforcement, and individuals who care—to evaluate best practices and find one that will work for Lake County.
As Sandy told an Illinois Senate delegation in May 2019, "This is an ethical and financial problem that must be addressed. We need additional funding to expand behavioral health capacity. Expanding services for short-term crisis care will achieve long-term savings in health costs, the judicial system, and, most importantly, provide people with the care they deserve to live happy, productive lives."