Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=190354
Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 12:00:27 PM CST
Eryn Rogers/ MEDILL
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed budget cuts to mental health clinics that are already stretched in resources. Although critics of the cuts say there are just two psychiatrists for the 12 city-run clinics, clinic staff say there are four to five psychiatrists who visiting most clinics about once a week.
“It’ll leave thousands of people without the mental health services they desperately need,” said a staff assistant at one of the city’s mental health clinics. He added that on days when there is a doctor at his clinic, it is about 50 percent more crowded.
About 200 protesters rallied in front of Emanuel’s office in City Hall on Wednesday as a part of this week’s Take Back Chicago movement. They are opposing his proposal to close or privatize the clinics. The demonstrators handed the mayor’s press aide more than 3,900 letters opposing the move.
“I need to have therapy to see how my quality of life can be further enhanced,” said Gail Davis, a mental health patient. “If they do this, then we don’t have another outlet. Where are we going to go?”
This is the second letter-writing campaign organizers from Southside Together Organizing for Power have conducted against mental health budget cuts. In 2009, Mayor Richard M. Daley, decided not to follow through with closing four of the city’s mental health clinics.
“With the old mayor, he pretty much knew, but this new mayor has ignored us,” said N’Dana Carter, who identified herself as a consumer at Greater Grand Mental Health Clinic and organizer for the protesters.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness released a study in the summer ranking Illinois 7th in cuts to mental health services with reducing funding by 15.1 percent over the past three years. Emanuel’s budget proposed cuts to public health and a plan to consolidate the 12 clinics into six sites.
Organizers say if the clinics are closed and patients without insurance have nowhere to turn, crime will likely increase.
“You have people who have set homes on fire, you have people who have had mental illnesses and committed domestic violence, you have people with mental illness that have access, and easy access, in our communities, to guns,” said Che“Rhymefest” Smith, a hip hop artist and community activist.
Carter added that the dangers of clinic closings would lead to a higher increase of death and those going to prison.
“When people have to self-medicate, they will do dangerous drugs, and those dangerous drugs kill them.”
Organizers said the bad economy has drastically added to the stability and mental health issues of Chicago residents.
“We need mental health services,” Smith said. “We got issues, and we need to deal with it.”