Health Lab Supportive Release Center

Mental health in the nation’s jail and prison systems is a persistent and difficult challenge.  Between 25 and 40 percent of all Americans with mental illness will be jailed or incarcerated in their lifetimes.  This fact is especially powerful at Chicago’s Cook County Jail, where it is estimated that on any given day, up to one in three inmates suffers from mental illness. 

The Health Lab, in partnership with Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, Heartland Alliance Health (HAH), and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, designed a “Supportive Release Center,” which opened in June 2017. The SRC aims to help individuals with mental illness reenter life and transition to services in their communities following their release from the Cook County Jail. The SRC offers a safe place to stay the night and linkages to services to address needs in mental and general health, substance use, housing and employment for individuals released from jail who have a history of mental illness and behavioral health issues. In addition, a subset of especially vulnerable SRC visitors – those who are homeless or unstably housed – will receive more intensive, Critical Time Intervention-based case management through HAH.

The Health Lab is providing design and evaluation support to conduct a randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the SRC on health and criminal justice outcomes and generate evidence that will allow for the replication of this model in jails across the country.