City mental health push will reopen Roseland clinic, add help elsewhere

Taking steps to expand mental health services cut back more than a decade ago, the city is reopening its center in the Roseland neighborhood on the Far South Side and adding services to two other sites on the West Side.

“Today, my administration is taking extraordinary steps to reverse the course and expand our city’s system of mental health,” Mayor Brandon Johnson told reporters and community members Thursday morning at a news conference outside the Roseland Mental Health Center.

The Roseland facility will be one of three additional sites offering mental health services by the end of the year. Services will also be added at the Chicago Department of Public Health vaccine clinic in the Pilsen neighborhood and the Legler Library in Garfield Park.

Johnson said his administration wants to hire “as many people as possible” for expanded mental health care services.

“There clearly is not just a need, but there is a desire for the workforce to have opportunities to work for public health,” Johnson said.

The announcement comes after the release of a report put together by the Mental Health System Expansion Working Group detailing a citywide plan for mental health expansion.

Aside from reopening city-run mental health centers, the report suggests opening new health centers in neighborhoods with the most unmet needs and layering mental health services into existing city public health clinics that don’t offer them.

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) said the city chose Roseland, Pilsen and Garfield Park for expanded mental health services based on the needs of those neighborhoods.

“It is highly documented that the South and West sides are spaces where there is way less access to mental health care,” said Rodriguez-Sanchez, who chairs the City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations. “All of the work we and the Mayor’s Office are doing right now are being informed by that need.”

Last July, mayoral allies laid the groundwork for reopening the clinics as part of an overarching plan to build a new network for mental health care dubbed “Treatment Not Trauma.”

“Whatever rationale or justification that a previous administration has made [as] of why families don’t deserve mental health treatment, I am not those mayors,” Johnson said. “We made a promise [and] I kept it because it’s gonna save lives.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel shut down seven city-run clinics — half of those open at the time — in 2012 due to budget cuts.

Johnson said working to improve mental health access across the city is personal, since his brother Leon died addicted and homeless and struggled with mental health issues.

“My administration is working to create a Chicago where the people who are suffering from mental health crisis like my brother Leon can receive the treatment that they need,” Johnson said.

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