About a third of Cook County Jail inmates have some form of mental illness, but the facility is short on mental health staffers because it is difficult to attract and retain such professionals there.
County officials are working toward implementing some incentives that they hope will enable them to bring on more psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to the jail, which currently has eight out of 25 such positions unfilled.
First, the county’s Health and Hospitals System is seeking to increase salaries for psychiatrists from $190,000 to $230,000.
Also, county representatives are backing a student loan relief proposal at the federal level, spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), that would let the health staffers get as much as $50,000 of their student debt cleared. Under the legislation, correctional facility health workers in counties and municipalities would be able to join the National Health Service Corps, allowing them to get the student loan relief.