ENGLEWOOD — While the focus Thursday was on the grand opening of new children's mental clinic, one community group took the opportunity to push city officials to hire more staffers at the city's six adult mental clinics.
Diane Adams, a member of the Mental Health Movement group, asked the city's health commissioner what plans he had to hire more staff to handle what she said was an influx of mental health patients as a result of 2012 clinic closures.
"There are six mental health clinics [for adults] but there are only three psychiatrists and five therapists and that's not enough," said Adams, a 58-year-old Washington Heights resident, who said she is a mental health patient. "In Englewood alone there are over 300 mental health patients that come to the clinic like I do. But people are ... being turned away because there are more people than staff can handle."
Wendell Hutson chats about the first of its kind facility in Englewood.
Dr. Bechara Choucair, commissioner for the Department of Health, attended the grand opening and told Adams during a question-and-answer session that employee retirements have left many clinics understaffed.
But he acknowledged more needs to be done to help children, Choucair said.
"I am a family physician and at the end of the day it's about options for families. That's what this clinic represents, a model for integrated social services," Choucair said. "Three out of four children that have mental health issues do not get the help they need because of a lack of options."
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), whose ward includes the clinic, told residents he fought hard to get the clinic in the ward.
"I have been working behind the scenes to make this happen and I am glad it finally became a reality," Cochran said.
Leslie Appleton, 37, also attended the grand opening at the Mile Square Health Center, 641 W. 63rd St., which houses the only children's mental health clinic in Englewood. Her 10-year-old son was diagnosed two years ago with mental health disorder, but he has yet to receive treatment.
"I know people may think I am a bad mother for not getting my son treatment sooner but I was embarrassed about it. I did not want to get on the bus with him so people could look at him funny and make him feel bad," Appleton said. "He gets picked up and dropped off to school on a school bus and he goes to school with other kids like him. I live two blocks from here (the clinic) so it will be easier for me to get him treatment discreetly now."
Dr. LaMorris Perry, the clinic's sole pediatrician, said that 44 percent of Englewood residents live in poverty.
"Poverty coupled with mental health could spell disaster for many families. Children I have examined had autism, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from violence being inflicted on them or them witnessing a violent act," Perry said. "With this new mental health component at the center we have people on site who could help them rather than write a referral and send them on their way."
Henry Taylor, executive director of the Mile Square Health Center, said more needs to be done to help communities combat mental health issues.
"Englewood is the poorest of the poorest communities in Chicago," he said. "(And) we have to find a way to be a beacon of hope for such communities."
Ashburn resident Dana Todd Pope, who has an art gallery in Pilsen, decorated the clinic’s walls with artwork.
"I think it is so awesome to kids smiling while looking at my artwork. I have two children and some of the art is based off of kids posing at home," said Pope, 36. "All of my children's artwork is positive. You see enough negative images of Chicago youth on TV. I want kids to feel good about themselves when they come to this clinic."