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$90 million county medical facility opens for inmates

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle  tours new 'Residential Treatment Unit' next door George N. LeightCriminal Court Building 26th

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle tours the new "Residential Treatment Unit" next door to the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California. | Jon Seidel~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 13, 2013 12:54PM

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle put a spotlight on the “intersection of public health and public safety” Thursday, announcing a nearly $90 million medical facility has opened next door to the county’s criminal courthouse.

The “Residential Treatment Unit” will offer inmates help with substance abuse, mental illness, general health screenings and evaluations.

“The health challenges facing our inmates are well-documented,” Preckwinkle said before taking a tour of the facility beside the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California.

Preckwinkle said the Cook County jail has become the state’s largest mental health-care provider because so many inmates suffer from mental illness. She also said more than 85 percent of its inmates test positive for drugs.

“Many of those individuals suffer from an addiction that leads them to commit crimes,” she said.

Connie Mennella, interim medical director of Cermak Health Services, said the new building will help consolidate the medical staff.

The 276,450-square-foot facility offers separate male and female intake units, a medical and psychiatric screening facility, 24-hour crisis and intervention services, a correctional psychiatric care clinic and secured exterior recreation yards.

It has a staff of more than 200 people and offers 979 medical beds.

John Cooke, the county’s director of capital planning, said the building has been under construction since 2008 and was financed primarily through recovery zone bonds.

“We’re very excited about the new building,” Mennella said.

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