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Sheriff Dart to speak on impact of clinic closings

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Sheriff Tom Dart’s warning last year that closing the city’s mental health clinics would add to the burden of the Cook County Jail is coming true, according to the Mental Health Movement [2].

Joined by mental health professionals and consumers, Dart will discuss the impact of the clinic closings on the jail — including people who could avoid incarceration if they had access to mental health services — at a forum on Wednesday, September 5, at 6:30 p.m. at Episcopal Church Nuestra Senora, 2610 N. Francisco.

Dart will be joined by Crystal Colon of Iraq Veterans Against the War and psychologist Rebecca Paz-Ford of Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University.  According to MHM, psychiatric hospitalizations doubled in April, after half of the city’s clinics were closed.

In addition, former clinic patients will talk about the devastating impact the closings had on their lives, including people suffering severe anxiety who are unable to make the long trek to clinics to which they were transferred.

Two nonprofit mental health agencies – which were supposed to pick up the slack when six city clinics were closed this spring – have gone out of business since the clinic closings, in part due to cuts in state funding, according to Matt Ginsburg-Jaeckle of MHM.   Hundreds of patients from the South Side’s Community Mental Health Closing, which closed in July, are flooding the city’s Englewood clinic, he said.

In response, the city is said to be considering opening two additional lightly-staffed “satellite clinics,” he said, though rehiring laid-off staff is not planned.  A city promise to keep the Woodlawn clinic open as an “outpost” has not materialized, he said.

MHM activists arrested when they occupied the Woodlawn clinic in April are slated to go to trial on trespassing charges on October 15.

MHM is pushing to get full funding for the clinics restored to the city’s budget.  The group is also highlighting “the multiple ways people are denied access to services,” including a shortage of social workers and psychologists in CPS schools for students traumatized by violence, and long waiting lists at the Veterans Administration, Ginsburg-Jaeckle said.