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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.

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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.

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Mental health groups oppose cuts, privatization

Mental health activists concerned about potential service cuts and privatization will hold a town hall meeting Friday with Chicago Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair.

Mental health providers and consumers will join Choucair on a panel, Friday, August 5, 5:30 p.m., in the Joyce Auditorium of Mercy Hospital, 2525 S. Michigan, 2nd floor.

The groups are demanding to be included in a task force on city-county collaboration formed by Mayor Emanuel and County President Preckwinkle.

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