Sometimes the most difficult moments when working toward a major benchmark are the final steps before success.
Lake County government, and particularly jail officials, must push hard to complete the final steps needed to untether cumbersome federal oversight that's costing the county some $6 million a year.
Unfortunately, this expensive challenge is one of the county's own making.
Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice has been overseeing mandated improvements at the jail following a series of inmate suicides, infectious disease outbreaks and inmate injuries.
Seven years ago, a federal civil rights investigation concluded the Lake County Jail didn't meet federal standards on several fronts.
Now the county lockup, which housed more than 14,000 inmates in 2016, appears to be on the verge of satisfying a settlement with the federal government for needed changes at the jail, county officials said.
The sooner the county can untether from this federal anchor the better.
County government is spending nearly $6 million per year to comply with health standards and other measures set forth in the federal agreement.
That's in addition to the $17 million in annual costs for feeding and guarding jail inmates in Crown Point.
The latest federal inspection, which occurred in March, found sustained compliance with standards for screening inmates for health needs within a timely fashion after intake.
It also found compliance with provisions for acute and chronic disorder care, dental care, infectious disease control and several other benchmarks.
However, the jail was downgraded to partial compliance in the mental health care area because the psychiatric nurse practitioner resigned in February and has yet to be replaced.
Four months have passed since that resignation and three months since the Justice Department inspection.
It's time for county leaders to provide the final compliance push and rectify the situation.
Delays will only continue an expensive and stifling period of oversight.