With many Roger Ebert fans fixated on his spiritual triumph over late-in-life physiological battles, as addressed in LIFE ITSELF, we must remember he and Chaz Ebert at least had options available to him for medical procedures and living aids. Innumerable other United States citizens struggle with accessing services they need despite our healthcare overhaul, including those who suffer from mental issues and run afoul of the law due to misinterpreted behaviors.

Unusual for a small-market newspaper, The Pantagraph in Bloomington commissioned a long-form video from staff reporter Edith Brady-Lunny and photography editor David Proeber, investigating how this predicament affects McLean County on multiple fronts. SHORTCHANGED: UNJAILING THE MENTALY ILL talks about county and state officials openly recognizing a need for alternatives given how the McLean County Detention Facility, instead of hospitals or clinics, had become the largest supplier of mental health services in the area. According to opening moments in SHORTCHANGED, approximately 350,000 inmates nationwide and more than 25% inhabiting the McLean jail exhibit problems of this nature, forcing officers to handle a population ill-equipped to spend any amount of time behind bars.

While you can watch the hour-long piece below, posted by after a public premiere at the Normal Theater in neighboring Normal on Tuesday, October 28, also consider reading Brady-Lunny’s companion articles; links are aggregated at this dedicated Web page. They include updates to topics broached in the video, particularly the establishment of a 14-bed crisis center on Martin Luther King Drive in Bloomington to be managed by Chestnut Health Systems. Certainly, interview subjects appearing in SHORTCHANGED – including afflicted men and women who have found themselves caught in a wasteful system – intone a cautious optimism that long-term solutions can be found.

After all, we are shortchanged when we continuously fail to be humane to our fellow human beings.

~ Jason Pankoke

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