Advocates Press City over Mental Health Clinics

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Ashmar Mandou

A group of disgruntled mental health advocates held a press conference inside City Hall Monday morning to protest the postponement of a hearing on the city’s mental health clinics.

Members of the Mental Health Movement, a coalition led by STOP that works with mental health service consumers and providers to eradicate the stigma of mental illness and build a passage for proper healthcare, acquired an official notice of hearing by the City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Protection in response to a Council resolution requesting a hearing on public mental health clinics.

After gathering experts and clients to testify at the hearing the group learned that the Committee had removed the issue from its agenda at the request of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

For the past two years, advocates have pressed for a hearing in the wake of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to close six of the twelve mental health clinics in the city. The Mental Health Movement combated hard to stop the closure of the clinics and highlighted the serious impact the closures have had on former clients.

Mental Health Movement representatives discussed the immediate threat to the viability of mental health clinics –“the city’s failure to join any provider network, triggering the termination of services for current Medicaid patients as the state moves towards managed care.” Speakers addressed the severe shortage of mental health services for Chicago’s underserved population, many of whom currently have coverage through expanded Medicaid.

The purpose of the protest was to demand an increase in funding for the remaining six clinics with a focus on adequate staffing. The group is calling for the Chicago Department of Public Health to orchestrate a complete needs assessment of mental health services in the city.

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