My friends and I have been devastated by Chicago’s cuts to mental health. When her son was shot and killed on the streets of Chicago, our friend Debbie Delgado found the support she needed at a public mental health clinic in her neighborhood. But the city closed her clinic and five others and gave grants to private providers instead. Before the closures, our friend Helen Morley told Mayor Emanuel if he closed her clinic she would die. Her stressed heart gave out on her two months after her clinic closed.
Now I’m afraid we’re being set up for more of these devastating closures. The city is pushing people out and stopping new people from coming in. I’m asking people to urge Mayor Emanuel to stop this by having the city join the referral network for people getting newly available health benefits and to meet with the Mental Health Movement.
When people sign up for insurance under expanded medicaid / CountyCare, they are supposed to be advised of places they can receive mental health care, but the city clinics are not included. Not only has the city refused to join the referral network, it is cutting off clients who sign up for CountyCare. This is sabotaging the remaining city mental health clinics.
We at the Mental Health Movement fought hard to keep the clinics open. We said that the closures would disrupt care, reduce access and layoff dedicated staff. A report based on data and interviews after the closures showed that the clinic closures were plagued by poor planning, mismanagement, inaccurate information and profound insensitivity to those of us who go to the clinics.
Three of the clinics closed by the city were in neighborhoods hit hard by skyrocketing violence on their streets. These clinics had a long history and expertise in helping people cope with loss and trauma from violence. With times as hard as they are, people need these clinics more than ever.
Now we’re afraid the city is undermining the six remaining mental health clinics by refusing to participate in a county referral network. This not only limits access to mental health services it lowers the number of clients relying on the city clinics, giving the city an excuse for closing these vital clinics.
Please join us in urging Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to ensure access to mental health care for all Chicagoans and meet with the Mental Health Movement. Demand that the city take steps now to ensure access to vitally needed mental health services by investing in the mental health clinics currently operating and exploring options for re-opening the six clinics closed last year.