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Latinos to testify on mental health cuts

Patients and staff from city mental health centers that are being closed next month by Mayor Emanuel will testify on the impact of the closures on the Latino community, Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. at Resurrection Church, 3043 N. Francisco.

Although large swathes of the immigrant population will remain uninsured under federal health reform, the two centers serving the largest number of Latino clients – Back of the Yards, 4313 S. Ashland, and the Northwest center, 2354 N. Milwaukee – are among six centers slated for closing, with much of the bilingual staff to be laid off.

Former City Clerk Miguel del Valle will open the forum, and elected officials are invited to respond to comments.

Pressure is mounting on Ald. George Cardenas (12th ward), chair of the health committee, who has repeatedly promised hearings on the closings.  A resolution calling for hearings was introduced in the City Council last week and referred to the health committee.

MHM: Tax yachts to save clinics

The Mental Health Movement will launch a campaign to pass a “yacht tax” to provide funding for six mental health clinics slated to close next month.  They’re holding a press conference on the second floor of City Hall at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 14.

Ald. Willie B. Cochran (20th) will introduce a resolution at Wednesday’s council meeting calling for emergency hearings on the clinic closings.  The first two clinics are scheduled to close on April 9.  More on the issue here.

Charge city ‘dumping’ mental health

[UPDATED]  With six mental health clinics set to close next month, activists say the private community clinics that are supposed to take many city patients are already turning them away – one of many signs that the city’s claims of improving services and efficiency are a screen for an agenda of dumping mental health services entirely.

Mental Health Movement activists and workers from city mental health centers and public health clinics slated for closing will protest outside 13 threatened facilities at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6. They’ll also be marching on three aldermanic offices (see below).

Big crowds are expected at the Northwest Mental Health Center, 2354 N. Milwaukee – one of two centers serving Latino populations, both of which are being shut down – and at the Woodlawn center, 6337 S. Woodlawn, where the Mental Health Movement has a strong base, and where the local alderman has promised to introduce a resolution calling for hearings on the closings.

Press conferences will be held at 5:15 p.m. at three clinics: Northwest (2354 N Milwaukee Ave.), Northtown/Rogers Park (1607 W Howard St.) and Auburn-Gresham (1140 W 79th St.).

“Private providers are turning people away,” said N’Dana Carter, who represents the MHM on a city health department committee overseeing clinic transitions.

She said the sole private community mental health service on the South Side, Community Mental Health Council, was not responding to calls for appointments from people referred by city clinics. She told of one woman who managed to get an appointment but was turned away when she came to the center at the scheduled time.

A staff person at CMHC said the center was accepting Medicaid patients and welcomes patients who’ve been pre-approved for Medicaid by the city.

Carter said that at a recent transition committee meeting, there was no discussion when a city clinic director reported on private providers turning away city clients. (A major topic of discussion at the meetings is who will get the furniture from facilities slated for closure, she said.)

Carter said she later put the issue directly to Deputy Commissioner Tony Beltran, who is overseeing the closings. According to Carter, he told her, “We can’t make the providers take anybody.”

“They talk about consolidation and improving services, but they’re just placating people to justify the fact that they don’t want to provide services any more,” said Darryl Gumm, chair of the Community Mental Health Board, which advises the department under a federal mandate.

“Mental health is something that can be dealt with – treatment works,” he emphasized, stressing its public safety value. “It should be as important as police and fire.”

South Side, Latinos losing services

Four of the six clinics slated for closing are on the South Side in areas designated as having a shortage of mental health services by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to a recent report from MHM. These communities need more – not fewer – services, the group says.

Also slated for closing are the two clinics serving predominantly Latino populations, the Northwest and Back of the Yards centers. Those centers serve areas with significant undocumented populations, who are far more likely to be without insurance – the segment the city claims it is focusing its resources on covering.

Read the rest of this entry »

Clinic users speak out on closings

Take a few minutes and watch this powerful video from the Mental Health Movement, with the people who will be impacted by the impending closing of the city’s clinics speaking about how they’ve been helped — and how scared they are to lose that help.

Local reporting: South Side AIDS group at 25, and more

Betty Smith was a respiratory therapist who was tired of seeing AIDS patients treated as pariahs when she founded the South Side Help Center in 1987.

She started by reaching out to African American ministers. When many were “hesitant,” she started going to their wives.

Today the South Side Health Center offers HIV testing, education and outreach programs along with myriad community services like youth mentoring and substance abuse counseling. The group is also dedicated to fostering other, younger community groups.

The group is turning 25 this year, and it’s featured in Windy City Times’ AIDS At 30 series, part of the Chicago Community Trust’s Local Reporting Initiative and the subject of one of several new posts at the Community News Project blog.

There’s the story of “Nina,” the first woman in the WINGS program of Cook County’s new prostitution court, profiled by Sarah Ostman at Gapers Block. And there are lots of stories of residents of Southwest Side communities collected by the Southwest Neighborhood Youth Writers Project. Check it out.

What’s next

In honor of the Year of the Protestor (as proclaimed by Time Magazine), the Journal of Ordinary Thought has reposted three poems from its summer issue on Art as Activism.  I like “What’s Next” by Lester Hemingway  (I like them all, but as you’d expect from a Hemingway, this one is pithy):

 

WHAT’S NEXT

you’re angry.  me too

attention! the fruit is rotting

let’s save what we can

 

One of the best overviews of Occupy Wall Street is “The New Populists” in this month’s American Prospect.  Participant-observer Christopher Ketcham illuminates the fascinating dynamics of the movement with a depth and detail missing from most accounts, from the earliest discussions, to the intricate network of solidarity built on hard work and endless discussion, to the “blitzkrieg” – and markedly violent – police eviction on November 15, followed by a massive protest.

He notes the parallel with the populist movement of the 1890s – even citing a populist song on “the ninety and nine” who live in hunger and cold “that the one may live in luxury” – and America’s history of occupiers: Rosa Parks, lunch counter sit-ins, Martin Luther King’s Resurrection City, sit-down strikes in Flint, Coxey’s Army and the Bonus Marchers.  “The idea of occupation has outlasted Zucotti Park,” he writes.

Homes, schools, clinics 

We’ve covered the local movement to “occupy foreclosures”  — its roots in Boston and Florida go back years, and its opportunities are expanding everyday.  Another arena for occupiers is the fight to defend public schools.

At a recent teach-in by CTU and community allies, several angry parents spoke about the need to “occupy our schools.”  The Nation reports on occupy tactics being deployed to oppose the encroachment of charter schools in New York City and New Jersey as well as CPS chief Jean-Claud Brizard’s previous domain of Rochester — and his new one of Chicago.

The fight over school policy presents all the issues of the Occupy movement – the post-hoc, pro-forma charade of public input by CPS , presided over by a rubber-stamp Board of Education, makes a mockery of democracy.  Politically connected groups like UNO and AUSL have the inside track.  The wealthy elite – Penny Pritzker and the “billionaire boys club” — has overwhelming influence, even as corporate interests undermine school funding by evading taxes and sucking up TIF subsidies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mental health cuts called callous, dangerous

For N’Dana Carter, the proposal to transfer patients from the city’s Beverly-Morgan Park Mental Health Center to the center in Roseland is emblematic of the “callousness” of the cutbacks in Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget.

The Beverly Area Planning Agency and other community groups will rally against the closing of the center on Monday, November 14 from 3 to 6 pm. at 111th and Longwood.

“There’s nowhere else in our community to receive public mental health services,” said Matt Walsh, executive director of BAPA.  Closing the center “would be devastating to the most vulnerable members of our community.”

He adds: “This is people’s lives we’re dealing with here.”

“These are mainly white, mainly middle-aged ladies” going to the clinic, said Carter, an activist (who is African American) with the Mental Health Movement organized by Southside Together Organizing for Power.  They will stand out sharply in the black community of Roseland, on the opposite end of the city’s Far South Side, she said.

“Roseland is very dangerous.  It’s a war zone.  They are putting people in harm’s way.  It’s like putting a sign on their back saying ‘hurt me’.”

‘Too dangerous’

“It’s too dangerous; I would be risking my life to go there,” one Beverly resident and center client told the Beverly Review.

“We’re victims of violence fairly often,” said Fred Friedman, a mental health advocate with Next Steps.  Transferring Beverly patients to Roseland “is a very stupid thing,” he said.

It typifies the lack of concern for patients’ welfare – and for a wide range of costs –involved in closing six of the city’s twelve mental health clinics, advocates say.  The city says the closings will save $3.3 million out of the city’s $6 billion budget.

Read the rest of this entry »

Immigrant youth and mental health

Youth and community organizers will join researchers and practitioners for a panel discussion exploring the unique mental health challenges faced by young people whose careers and dreams are thwarted by their immigration status.  It takes place Tuesday, November 1, at 3:30 p.m. at the Adler School of Psychology, 17 N. Dearborn.

Two recent productions of the Local Reporting Initiative deal with aspects of this issue: “Undocumented Youth: Waiting, Dreaming, and Falling Through the Cracks,” by The Gate newspaper, and “Why Are Latina Teens At-Risk for Suicide?” by Latina Voices and Mujeres Latinas.  More at communitynewsproject.org.



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