Fighting For Mental Health

Clinic closures ripped

Mental health patients and advocates packed a meeting Tuesday of the City Council's Health Committee urging aldermen to reverse plans to close four of the city's 12 community mental health centers for budget reasons.

Many of those same folks will keep the pressure on at a town hall meeting on Thursday. Mayor Daley has been invited to the Thursday event, though there is no indication he will attend.

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, however, is confirmed.

If Daley did show up, he might meet someone like Fred Friedman, who told the council committee that, "You can talk about traveling three extra miles or going an extra six blocks. Maybe you can do that. But I couldn't get out of bed. If someone told me I had to go an extra three miles, I simply wouldn't have done it . . . People like me can become productive, constructive members of society. But we can't do it on our own. We need help. Please help us."

Four clinics are scheduled to close on April 7. When the city first announced the closures, Daley took the heat but then blamed the state for a $1.2 million funding cut. (The National Alliance on Mental Illness just raised the state's grade on providing mental health services - to a "D" from an "F.")

The Tribune reports that  "a computer glitch caused months-long delays in billing by the city for mental health services, a problem that has since been fixed. But some patient advocates said the billing problem exacerbated the budget shortfall.

"It appears that the Chicago Department of Public Health lost a portion of this funding by its own management failings," Anne Irving, director of public policy for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, told the paper.

The Chi-Town Daily News reports that "Alderman Robert Fioretti complained that the City Council was not involved enough in the decision to shutter the centers.

'I feel like we were taken in this whole process,' he said."

"Health committee chair Ed Smith says aldermen brought the clinics up in a recent meeting with the governor. Smith says he’s hopeful that the city can reverse the closures," WBEZ reported.

Meanwhile, the community activist group Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) , an organizer of Thursday's town hall meeting, says that "Mayor Daley is violating a 2006 City Council Resolution by trying to close a third of the city's mental health clinics, all of which are in Black and Latino communities on the South Side."

The town hall will be held at the 1st Presbyterian Church, 6400 S. Kimbark Ave, at 5:30 p.m.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review. You can subscribe to his RSS feed here.

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