Mental Health Movement – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 Patients ‘disappeared’ in mental health closings http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/patients-disappeared-in-mental-health-clinic-closings/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/patients-disappeared-in-mental-health-clinic-closings/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 23:17:59 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6735 Last year’s closing of six of the city’s twelve mental health clinics – for a reported savings of just $3 million – was “characterized by poor planning, mismanagement, inaccurate information, and profound insensitivity to clients,” according to a new report from the Mental Health Movement and AFSCME Council 31.

That meant a rocky transition for many clients, while the Chicago Department of Public Health seems to have lost track of as many as two thousand clients whose transition it had pledged to monitor.

According to the report, “Abandoning the Most Vulnerable,” the city listed 5,337 clients in October 2011 when the clinic closings were announced, but its report on the transition this July gave the total as 2,798.

Asked about this, the city told researchers that a March review found only 3,282 “active” cases.  The difference includes clients who weren’t currently seeing a therapist but expected to be able to if necessary – and in any case, between March and July, nearly 500 clients “disappeared” entirely, according to the report.

One problem was that therapists who were being transferred from closing clinics weren’t informed of their new assignments until the very last minute, making it impossible to keep their clients in the loop, said Jo Patton of AFSCME.

The failure to monitor all the city’s clients “represents a signficant lapse at the top echelons” of CDPH, while “the attempt to cover up that failure by simply revising the total number of clients raises serious ethical concerns,” the report charges.

No comprehensive effort

“There was not a comprehensive effort to reach each client and provide them with the information they needed to continue to receive services,” according to the report.

Nor was the transition smooth – as shown by a spike in the rate of psychiatric hospitalizations of CDPH clients in April, the year of the closing. In that month, hospitalizations were nearly twice as high as the average over the previous year and a half.

There were other problems, according to the report.  Two private agencies to which clients were referred closed their doors in the two months following the closings.  Only 43 percent of clients transferred to private agencies were reported by CDPH as receiving services from them.

Meanwhile, with half of CDPH therapists laid off but 85 percent of clients continuing to attend the remaining clinics, caseloads and waiting times increased dramatically.

This all takes place at a time when national and state surveys have revealed increasing demand for mental health services and huge gaps in the capacity to provide services.

Needs assessment

The report calls for reopening the six clinics closed in April and adequately staffing the remaining six clinics, rehiring African-American and bilingual therapists to ensure culturally competent care, and implementing an outreach program to let people in need know about CDPH services.

At a budget hearing held by the Progressive Caucus of the City Council in South Shore on Tuesday, mental health advocate Badonna Reingold said she’s “very, very concerned about  a dramatic turnback of care for people with mental illness” on the part of the state and the city.

While the city has promised to provide care for people without insurance, it is only planning for 2,000 clients, she said, at a time when and increased unemployment and violence are certainly adding stress to the lives of many more people.

She called on the City Council’s health committee to hold a hearing and sponsor a full-scale needs assessment.

Margaret Sullivan of the Mental Health Movement criticized the aldermen for voting for last year’s budget after 28 council members signed a letter opposing the mental health cuts.

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Sheriff Dart to speak on impact of clinic closings http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/sheriff-dart-to-speak-on-impact-of-clinic-closings/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/sheriff-dart-to-speak-on-impact-of-clinic-closings/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2012 22:28:14 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6597 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.

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.

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From 1968, a long view on movement building http://www.newstips.org/2012/05/from-1968-a-long-view-on-movement-building/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/05/from-1968-a-long-view-on-movement-building/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 18:16:09 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6265 After demonstrators were arrested and roughed up in an unsuccessful attempt to march to McCormick Place on Sunday, I thought it would be interesting to check in with Mel Rothenberg.  He has the distinction of leading the only demonstration that succeeded in marching to the International Ampitheatre, where the Democratic National Convention was being held, in 1968.

Now a retired professor, Rothenberg has been politically active through the intervening decades, most recently with Chicago Jobs With Justice and the Chicago Political Economy Group.  This gives him a long view on movement building and social change. (He and I worked together on the Chicago bureau of the Guardian, the independent radical newsweekly published in New York, in the 1980s.)

Chicago 1968 “was very different,” he says.  “It was a shock.  Everybody, the demonstrators and cops, were uncertain about what would happen.” At last weekend’s NATO protest, “both the authorities and the demonstration organizers had much more control of the street action, and the media had already orchestrated its coverage ahead of time.”

Big differences

“In 1968 the mayor was completely unprepared and the city was completely on edge,” he says.  In contrast to media pre-coverage this time – featuring scary headlines which almost surely depressed turnout – in 1968 “the media was trying to keep things calm, pretending nothing was going to happen.”

Also different was the police department: “In ’68 there was a lot of overt racism in the department — the Klan was operating openly; there were conflicts within the police department.” There had been major riots in Watts, Detroit, Newark. “The authorities were in a panic.  There were National Guard and state police, and it looked like for a while that the city would be put under martial law.”

Rothenberg helped organizet the Bourbaki Brigade, a contingent of mathematicians, who marched about 100-strong through Bridgeport to the Ampitheatre at 42nd and Halsted.  “It was very tense,” he recalls.  “There were neighborhood thugs threatening us, and the police in between, both protecting us and threatening us.”

The police “were making decisions on the spur of the moment – they didn’t know what was happening either – and they decided to let us through; we were a small group and not very threatening, mathematicians, college professors.”

The next day was supposed to be the big march to the convention site.  “It was supposed to be peaceful.  We brought our kids.”  A huge crowd gathered in the park across from the Conrad Hilton, and someone (later revealed to be a police infiltrator) climbed the flagpole and took down the American flag.  “That was the signal, they attacked us, there was tear gas, there was chaos.”

A big flop

This year, he says, “I don’t think Obama or NATO came out very well.  All the attention was on the demonstrators. The summit was a big flop.”

“There was no popular support in Chicago for NATO, no outpouring of sentiment to support NATO.” And “no one except city officials and p.r. people thought it was going to help the city.  It was a bust from the point of view of helping the local economy or getting favorable international attention to Chicago.”

“About the only thing they accomplished was to avoid a disaster,” Rothenberg said.

As for the protests, they turned out thousands of people – certainly far more than the 2,000 reported by the police – and wove together a range of social concerns with the issues of war and militarization.

But Rothenberg says there needs to be more attention to building a sustainable movement that goes beyond occasional demonstrations to actually challenging and changing policies.

Much of the weekend’s youthful energy came from the Occupy movement, but that’s “very loose and not really coherent” – not so much due to a lack of clear demands as of “a clear strategy for bringing and  keeping people together,” Rothenberg said. “So they latch on to what’s happening.”

That can be been positive, connecting them to community issues.  But “before they can become the core of a sustained social movement they have to confront more clearly the basic issues of class, race, gender and militarism which drive American political conflict.”

Sustainability

He calls the Mental Health Movement, which led a huge march Saturday to Mayor Emanuel’s home in Ravenswood, “inspiring.”

“It has done so much” — mounting a vigorous, year-long fight against Mayor Emanuel’s attempt to close clinics – “with a very dedicated multi-racial group of mental patients and  very little money.  But it’s going to be hard to sustain the energy unless there are some victories fairly soon.”  (His wife, Marcia Rothenberg, a retired nurse, has been active in the campaign.)

He contrasts the Tea Party movement – heavily backed by corporations and millionaires, and in control of the Republican Party and the House of Representatives – with progressive issue-oriented activist groups, which get “only meager support  from labor unions”; meanwhile “labor donates millions of dollars to politicians who do little to advance progressive programs.”

The Tea Party “has organization and money.  The left has probably more of people’s sentiment behind it and more idealistic youth, but it doesn’t have organization,” he said.

The “black bloc” is one group that tries to step into that vacuum.

Black bloc

“I don’t think they’re that strong,” said Rothenberg.  “There may have had a couple hundred in the anti-NATO demonstration who are really committed, and there’s a fringe they hope can be moved on the spot to join them.

“They’re small but they are able to act together because they have an agenda, a strategy,” he says. “It’s an agenda with which I disagree.

“They believe that you can end oppression and injustice simply by denying the legitimacy of the state, refusing to follow the orders of the authorities.  I wish it were that simple, but it’s not.

“Until you have the majority of people behind you, denying the authority of the state simply makes you an outlaw. People might romanticize outlaws but most people don’t trust them, and they’re not about to join them.”

They “probably feel they accomplished their agenda” when news coverage focused on clashes with police.  “They wanted attention and they got it.”  But “they don’t have much of a strategy beyond that.”

“They feel like people are going to be fed up with peaceful mobilizations that don’t accomplish anything,” he said.  “They think that will somehow kick off something bigger.”

Instead “the left gets hurt and loses support.”  The images of violence are something the media “can exploit very effectively to discredit the left and any social movement.”

Still, “there is a problem with having the same old marches over and over that don’t accomplish anything.”

It is clear that  the Democrat Party  doesn’t provide any kind of alternative – and the Democrats of Illinois are a stark example, Rothenberg said.  They control the governorship, both houses of the legislature, and mayor’s offices in major cities, and  “they have no solution to the problems of the economic crisis at all.”

“The deal they cut with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to give them a tax break worth $100 million a year when the state is going through a financial crises is simply outrageous,” Rothenberg said. “They should be driven from office for that alone.  They do what the Republicans do but with another kind of rhetoric.

“My feeling is if you can bring in numbers of Occupy people. progressive activists and community groups like the Mental Health Movement, and bring in substantial support from labor, you would have the basis of a movement that could sustain itself.”  Without that, “it’ll be touch and go.”

 

Further reading: We’ve posted Rothenberg’s talk from the CANG8/Occupy Counter-Summit on Labor and Occupy: Insights from Wisconsin, which fleshes out some of the issues raised here.

 

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Not NATO’s kind of town http://www.newstips.org/2012/05/not-natos-kind-of-town/ Wed, 23 May 2012 00:17:25 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6242 Mayor Emanuel is congratulating himself for a successful NATO summit – successful mainly because no disasters occurred, though the only real threats seem to have been those manufactured by police.

No doubt the black bloc is also congratulating itself that day-after front pages carried pictures of scuffles with police, rather than veterans returning their medals with members of Afghans For Peace looking on, certainly the most moving and meaningful drama of the weekend.

What would a real accounting of the summit’s costs and benefits look like?

“Obama projects desired image,” the Sun-Times titles one story, but the summit itself had some signal failures.  Two major goals – getting commitments from member states to fund the next phase of the war in Afghanistan, and reopening supply routes through Pakistan – did not pan out.

The protests cast a long shadow over Obama’s attempt to play the summit as a withdrawal from Afghanistan for the domestic audience (while lining up support from other countries for continuing operations).

Unfortunately for Emanuel’s legacy, the “Chicago Accord” that he was boasting last week would be signed at the summit – an agreement on how to proceed on Afghanistan – wasn’t to be, Rick Rozoff of Stop NATO points out.

Even the summit’s biggest actual accomplishment – the announcement that NATO’s missile defense system is going online – comes with no noticeable benefit and at great cost: major tensions with Russia, whose cooperation is needed for the alternative supply route to Afghanistan, Rozoff says.

He points out that the announcement included new plans for satellite technology, which he calls a fulfillment of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars dreams, and a dangerous and costly step toward the militarization of space.

Largest anti-NATO protest ever

Meanwhile, NATO was subject to a great deal of negative attention – and Chicago hosted the largest anti-NATO demonstration in the entire history of the alliance, Rozoff said.

(Four city blocks – a half mile – of marchers filling four lanes of State Street probably amounts to two or three times the police/media estimate of 3,000 protestors.)

And there’s renewed attention to the obscene amounts the U.S. and NATO nations spend on armaments.  This at a time when suffering from a lingering economic crisis continues to grow, when cities and states are mired in crisis and slashing public services – and while Obama’s defense secretary is opposing relatively minor spending cuts agreed to in last year’s budget deal.

The media tends to see the protestors as bearing a confusing mish-mash of causes.  But listen to them and you see that they are all connected on a fundamental level. At the Grant Park rally on Sunday, speaker after speaker tied issue after issue to the question of war and militarization.

N’Dana Carter of the Mental Health Movement pointed out that there are 30,000 Illinois National Guard members returning from war who have no access to VA care – and if Emanuel succeeds in closing mental health centers, “there will be no one to take care of them.”

“As long as there is war and poverty, there will be immigrants,” said Tania Unzueta of the Immigrant Youth Justice League.  “And long as there are deportations, there will be resistance,” she said, excoriating Obama for stepping up deportations to unprecedented levels.

“I’m angry because the people in power haven’t been listening to us,” said Angela Walker with ATU Local 998, representing Milwaukee bus drivers.  “We have been demanding an end to these wars for a decade and we’re still there.

“I stand in solidarity with the rights of Afghan women – their rights are not debatable,” she said.  “I am a union worker in Wisconsin – our rights are not debatable.”

Declared Walker: “I’m here because there should not be a single homeless veteran in this country.”

Protests target Emanuel too

Mayor Emanuel also came in for a lot of negative attention.  Many protestors’ signs targeted the mayor; one said “Donate Rahm to Afghanistan.”  Rocker Tom Morello taunted the mayor at the nurses’ rally Friday.  A huge, colorful, spirited crowd marched on his home Saturday, bringing more notice to his draconian mental health cuts, under the banner of “Health Care Not Warfare.”

The larger disparities and inequities in the city did not entirely escape attention, either.  Reporting on Grassroots Collaborative’s “Real Chicago” bus tour, the Guardian noted the irony of NATO promising “peace through security” in a city where, in minority neighborhoods, “neither exists.”  Murders are up in Chicago by 50 percent over last year (the city’s rate is nearly twice as high as New York’s), and insecurity correlates closely with race and poverty.  One third of African American residents live in poverty; black infant mortality is “on a par with the West Bank,” and black life expectancy in Chicago is lower than Egypt’s.

One wonders how Emanuel’s backers – the CEOs who donated millions from their corporate coffers to finance this extravanza – feel about the idea now.  Monday morning’s headlines did nothing to burnish the city’s reputation.  The $128 million that summit boosters said would be injected into the city’s economy turned out to be a figment of their imagination.  Downtown restaurants actually reported a “slump.”

And Monday, host committee donor Boeing was shut down by protestors highlighting its arms production and its tax evasion – a level of attention the corporation has avoided during its years in Chicago.  Might Boeing and others like it have been just as happy to have the summit somewhere else?

Expect the next NATO summit to be far, far away.  Perhaps, next time, at an undisclosed location.

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Mental health closures causing hospitalizations http://www.newstips.org/2012/04/mental-health-closures-causing-hospitalizations/ Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:00:22 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6086 With four more mental health centers slated for closing Monday, clinic users and supporters will seek a “pardon” from President Obama tomorrow – and highlight psychiatric hospitalizations that have resulted from the closure of two clinics earlier this month.

The Mental Health Movement will march on Obama’s campaign headquarters, 130 E. Randolph, at 11 a.m., Monday, April 30, to ask for “presidential pardon” for the condemned clinics – and for the clinic users they say will die as a result of the closures.

At 5:15 p.m. on Monday, therapists from the city clinics joined by health advocate Quentin Young will hold a press conference outside the mayor’s office in City Hall to discuss the impact of the closures.

One immediate outcome has been a surge of psychiatric hospitalizations for clients of two clinics closed earlier this month.  MHM knows of 18 such hospitalizations, said organizer Matt Ginsburg-Jaeckle.

One client – who was hospitalized after attempting suicide when she lost her long-time therapist – has been released and is telling her story for a video that MHM will be releasing, Ginsburg-Jaeckle said.

The cost of such hospitalizations (averaging $13,000 each) will eat up any taxpayers savings from clinic closings, according to an MHM report issued earlier this year.

Other issues highlighted in the report include the firing of all bilingual therapists at a time when immigrant communities increasingly need mental health services; the closure of four clinics in South Side communities that have a critical shortage of mental health services; and the diminished capacity of nonprofit providers that are supposed to take up the slack.

MHM members and supporters have been occupying the lot across from the Woodlawn Mental Health Center, 63rd and Woodlawn, since 23 were arrested at a sit-in at the clinic on April 12.  The Woodlawn center is slated for closure Monday.

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Latinos to testify on mental health cuts http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/latinos-to-testify-on-mental-health-cuts/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/latinos-to-testify-on-mental-health-cuts/#comments Tue, 20 Mar 2012 23:55:53 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6020 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.

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MHM: Tax yachts to save clinics http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/mhm-tax-yachts-to-save-clinics/ Tue, 13 Mar 2012 22:55:19 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6000 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.

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Charge city ‘dumping’ mental health http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/charge-city-dumping-mental-health/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/charge-city-dumping-mental-health/#comments Tue, 06 Mar 2012 01:49:25 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5977 [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.

Most of the department’s Spanish-speaking therapists have been laid off, according to MHM. (All the department’s black male therapists have been laid off, the group says.)

Downward spiral

Other indications that the “consolidation” is less about improving services than shutting them down, according to the MHM:

While this year’s caseload reductions are projected at 20 percent, staff is being cut by 34 percent.

This perpetuates a long downward spiral of cutting staffing and services and then using resulting decreases in patients served to justify further cuts, the group says.

And past experience shows that more patients will fall through the cracks when they’re shifted to new clinics in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

The city is forgoing revenue that supports mental health services by sending Medicaid patients to private providers.

Meanwhile those providers, struggling with Medicaid cuts and late payments from the state, are steadily reducing the number of clients they serve – down nearly 20 percent from 2007 to 2011 statewide.

The city is setting aside $500,000 to fund psychiatric services by private providers at $150 an hour – after claiming for years that it was unable pay more than $80 an hour in order to fill its own psychiatric vacancies.

While the health department saves a net $1.5 million on the clinic closings, it’s increasing spending on three additional deputy commissioners, outside contracts, and advertising and surveys by close to $1.7 million.

Cost savings due to clinic closures are illusory, MHM argues. Taxpayer costs will be shifted to ER visits, hospitalizations, police calls, jails and homeless shelters as clinics are unavailable.

Just 150 additional psychiatric hospitalizations in the next year (with an average cost of $13,000, there were nearly 40,000 such hospitalizations in Chicago in 2010) will eat up all savings from the closings.

The city is focusing on existing patients while studies indicate a large and growing population that isn’t getting treatment, particularly among low-income residents.

Closed door

“What’s remarkable is the extent to which people who are directly affected by this, and who have first-hand experience with these issues, have tried and tried to get the ear of officials who are making decisions about things they don’t know anything about,” said MHM organizer Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle.

“They’ve consistently shut the door to discussion,” he said. “It’s clear they’re just washing their hands of it.”

Mental health advocates first sought to meet with Mayor Emanuel while he was still a candidate for office, and got no response, Ginsberg-Jaeckle said.

In August, Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair backed out of a mental health town hall meeting hours before it was scheduled to take place.

In October MHM delivered 4,000 letters to Emanuel warning of the risks of closing the clinics and asking for a meeting. Mayoral staff promised to get back to them but never did, Ginsberg-Jaeckle said.

In November, MHM members sat in at Emanuel’s office calling for a meeting, and got no response. In January they crashed Emanuel’s announcement that he was restoring library hours, and he said he’d talk with them, according to Ginsberg-Jaeckle. Nothing came of that, either.

Lights out

In the City Council, health committee chair George Cardenas has promised hearings but backtracked several times, reportedly under pressure from the mayor’s office.

Ald. Willie Cochrane (20th), whose ward includes the Woodawn Mental Health Center, which is scheduled to close, and the Englewood clinic, which will receive patients from Woodlawn and Auburn Gresham, has promised to introduce a resolution calling for hearings on the closings, activists say.

On Tuesday evening, protestors will march on the offices of Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), Latasha Thomas (17th) and Joe Moore (49th), demanding they support the resolution. Thomas was among several aldermen who refused to talk with constituents about the clinics on their ward nights, Carter said. (Cardenas turned out the lights in his office when 28 constituents showed up, she said.)

Meanwhile, planning for the scheduled closings is slipshod and inadequate, Carter said. Therapists who are being reassigned haven’t been told where they’re going, and so their clients don’t know what to do. “People are afraid and confused,” she said.

Closing dates have changed several times since January. “They don’t have a plan, and we’ve put a spotlight on them so they can’t just push it through without a plan,” said Ginsberg-Jaeckle.

Although transportation assistance has been promised, details have changed regularly, Carter said. Now the city is talking about a couple months’ worth of bus passes, she said.

“If people need transportation now, they’re still going to need it in three months,” she said. “They’re just pushing people out of the system.”

 

UPDATE: MHM ally Southside Together Organizing for Power issued a statement on the cancellation of the G8 summit:

“The cancellation of the G8 summit comes as this city sits at a crossroads. Will we be a global city based on strong neighborhoods, robust public services, human rights and active public participation or a global city based on catering to corporations and hiding the poverty left in their wake?

“A good first step towards choosing the former path and putting people before profit would be to use a chunk of the $60-plus million raised by the city to cover the costs of the G8 summits to stop the closure of the 6 mental health clinics and the privatization of all seven of its neighborhood health centers and use the rest towards creating jobs, saving and improving schools and taking care of the people and communities that make up this city.

“STOP calls on Mayor Emanuel to immediately halt the closure of the mental health clinics and privatization of its neighborhood health centers as a first step in showcasing to the world the Chicago that the people demand and deserve. “

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