Mental Health Reprieve

Daley relents on mental health centers slated for closure

Apparently, in just the right doses of outrage, political threat, and embarrassing media coverage, dissent can work when it comes to Mayor Daley.

Daley has "issued a temporary reprieve to four South Side mental health clinics slated to close," the Tribune reports.

"Daley also said the city was looking into computer problems that, according to documents, led to a loss of nearly $1.2 million in state funding for the clinics this year.

"In January, Daley blamed the closings on the lost funding, contending the city had no choice. But Tuesday he acknowledged the city's billing may have played a role.

"'We are looking into that,' Daley said of the computer issues, first disclosed by the online publication Chi-Town Daily News.

The Daily News reported on Tuesday that "The Chicago Department of Public Health lost more than $1 million in state funding by failing to fix computer problems with its billing system, public records show, sparking a funding crisis and the scheduled closure of four South Side mental health centers today.

"City officials have previously blamed the closures in large part on state budget cutbacks.

"But a trail of official paperwork, obtained by the Daily News through the Freedom of Information Act, shows that the department’s new computerized billing system was so flawed that patient bills weren’t submitted to the state for six months in 2008.

"Billing the state was crucial to getting funds because of the way the state allocates dollars for mental health services."

On Monday, clinic advocates protesting the scheduled closings staged a brief sit-in at the mayor's office, winning a meeting with a top mayoral aide.

"'I think they finally got the concept of what the people in the community feel,' said Darryl Gumm, chairman of the Community Mental Health Board, an advisory group, after meeting with chief of staff Paul Volpe," the Tribune reports.

"Jacquelyn Heard, the mayor's spokeswoman, said officials were 'trying to discern whether there's any way to keep some of these clinics open for a short time to determine if there's a way to keep them open for a longer period'."

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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