As aldermen left Emanuel's budget address, about 40 members from the Mental Health Movement, an advocacy group supported by the Chicago Board of Mental Health, led nearly 150 others from groups participating in Take Back Chicago outside the council's chamber.
"We are not crazy," said Che "Rhymefest" Smith, a failed aldermanic candidate and MHM advocate in a speech to the assembled protestors. "We are not drug addicts, but we are sick, sick of the rich people getting all of the benefits."
The mayor’s office has indicated that it will use surplus TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds to cover a $635 million budget shortfall, but Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, spokesman for the MHM, said the mayor is taking away funding for social services.
“He's going to say that there is not enough in those TIF funds to keep the clinics public, but there is enough to help the major corporations and banks on LaSalle Street,” Ginsberg-Jaeckle said.
Therapists, clinical workers and mental health patients spoke on behalf of the movement.
"If the clinics are privatized we will see a higher rate of death and more people go to prison because they will be denied care and resort to self-medicating," said Robert Stewart, a clinical worker at an Englewood mental health center.
Bedonna Reingold, a retired therapist, said there were only two psychiatrists for the city's 12 mental health clinics.
“The mayor knows better,” Ginsberg-Jaeckle said. “It's just a question of him not wanting to hurt his political and economic influences.”
At 2 p.m. Wednesday, members of the Chicago Teachers Union and other labor groups planned a protest outside Bank of America Building on LaSalle St. as part of Take Back Chicago.