"Stop Chicago" community activists are asking Mayor Lori Lightfoot to invest in city-run mental health clinics across the city as the nation’s mental health crisis is compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
Nine years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration closed 50% of the city’s clinics, forcing some of the most critical patients to drive more than an hour to get the care they need.
That’s the case for Horace Washington Howard who says his bipolar disorder led to multiple run-ins with police over the years.
He lived two blocks from the Woodlawn mental health clinic, but it closed in 2012.
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"I catch the 63rd Street bus and then the El. Takes me approximately an hour and a half," said Howard. "Here, it only took me five minutes to walk."
A recent city-wide survey by Collaborative for Community Wellness showed more than half of the city is suffering from anxiety and/or depression.
The study showed that of the 378 respondents, a combined 90% expressed interest in free services at a city-run mental health clinic.
Dr. Arturo Carrillo, who helped conduct the survey, says the timing it critical.
"We’re in the middle of a pandemic, community violence has continued to spiral, and what we’ve seen is that the consequences of people experiencing trauma has been untreated this entire time," said Carrillo. "As a result, we have an overwhelming demand for mental health services."
Dr. Saloumeh Bozorgzadeh of the Sufi Psychology Association highlighted that people have fallen on hard times during the pandemic which can add to the mental health crisis.
"Therapy and mental health cannot be something that is only accessible to the privileged,” said Bozorgzadeh.
In a statement, Lightfoot’s office doubled down on mental health equity saying the city has funded 32 trauma-informed centers of care and is incorporating mental health professionals into the 911 response system.
Her office also highlighted continued funding efforts with the existing five city-run mental health clinics.