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Mental Health Movement Accuses City of Losing Nearly 500 Patients

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | November 2, 2012 9:32am | Updated on November 8, 2012 12:44pm
 Mental Health activist N'Dana Carter at a demonstration protesting clinic closures.
Mental Health activist N'Dana Carter at a demonstration protesting clinic closures.
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Flickr: JohnnyGotHisGun

CHICAGO — The first independent evaluation of the city's consolidation of 12 mental health clinics down to six accuses the Department of Public Health of "losing" almost 500 clients in the process, a number that differs from the city's official tally.

Citing city data it claims to have received through a Freedom of Information Act request, client advocacy group the Mental Health Movement reports that the city lost track of 484 of the 3,282 people the CDPH identified as receiving public mental health services on Feb. 28, 2012.

That number excludes patients like Margaret Sullivan, formerly a client at the Beverly-Morgan Park Mental Health Center until the clinic was closed April 30, who says her relocation plan isn't working.

The city promised her continued care through a combination of consolidations, relocations and reassignments to private facilities. But in a release from the Mental Health Movement, an advocacy group comprised of clients and providers fighting the clinic closures, she details her experience since her clinic's doors closed:

"I’m Bipolar and so I need to see my therapist weekly, not monthly but my therapist now has twice as many clients, and new ones to come," Sullivan said in the release. "On the rare occasions when I do receive an appointment, I take three buses and the Red Line to get there. It takes three hours of travel for me to receive one hour of therapy."

Sullivan's story and others like it frame a new report from the Mental Health Movement on the mental health clinic closures prescribed in the 2012 city budget to cut costs in the face of a nearly $600 million deficit.

The Mental Health Movement report also cites CDPH figures indicating that 38 mental health clients were hospitalized in April 2012, up from 21 during April 2011 and above the monthly average of 22 hospitalizations in 2011 and 2012.

In a September 2012 report on the transition process, the department wrote that "the total number of hospitalizations in CDPH's system of care has actually maintained relatively stable during the transition."

The CDPH also published different client relocation numbers in their September 2012 report. It now reports that of a total of 2,798 individuals receiving mental health care from the city before the consolidations, 2,369 are still receiving care at the city's public clinics. An earlier CDPH document from March 2012 totaled the number of active cases to 3,282, according to a FOIA request response sent by the department July 30.

"We’ve been tracking this data diligently since the transition happened and are pleased with the results we are seeing," CDPH spokesperson Quenjana Adams told DNAinfo Chicago in an email Thursday. "The documents have been available publicly every step of the way because we are committed to being open and transparent about this process."

Community care providers have been assigned the remaining 429 clients, 99 percent of whom have already scheduled appointments, according to the public health department report, which cites $2 million in taxpayer savings as a result of these changes.