The late baseballer Yogi Berra is credited with saying, “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says there's something to that; modern police must know mental health to do their jobs. The current legacy, says the sheriff, is a disgraceful one.

“In the 1950's, there were more than 500,000 people held at state psychiatric hospitals,” says Dart. “By the eighties, the numbers had fallen down to 70,000 people.” Picking up the slack, says Dart, is the penal system.

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The mental health unit at Dart's jail, he says, is the only part which is overcrowded. He calls his office “the largest mental health provider in the country” and adds that sort of strategy is the most “pigheaded and stupid” you can imagine.

Parent Linda Virgil, following Dart to the microphone, told lawmakers she gets the feeling she's not wanted.

“My greatest fear about this particular budget stalemate,” the mom of a mentally ill adult said, “is that there are those who don't want to fund social services of any kind, and have determined that if they can hold out long enough, many social services will simply die due to a lack of state funding.”

Lawmakers are back at the Capitol in late October.


(Copyright WBGZ /