LOGAN SQUARE — It’s been more than two years since the city shut down half of its mental health clinics, including the only branch in Logan Square, but organizers and community organizations have applied steady pressure and recently won a public hearing before City Council.
The public hearing will begin with a news conference Tuesday, shortly before noon, followed by resident testimony before City Council members at 1 p.m.
N’Dana Carter, a spokeswoman from Mental Health Movement, said the hearing is a huge step after advocates fought for three years to save the clinics and then fight for their reinstatement.
“It’s huge for a number of reasons. We’ve been asking for a long time,” Carter said, noting that action has already come too late for many, including some former patients of Logan Square’s Northwest Mental Health Clinic.
All 50 Chicago aldermen voted to close the clinics in November 2012, but organizers and former patients of the taxpayer-funded clinics say the compounding problem has simply been pushed onto the county level — mainly at the Cook County Jail.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has repeatedly said that the jail has become the “largest mental health hospital” where “criminalized” men and women suffering from mental health issues wind up in lieu of adequate care, but little movement has been made on behalf of City Council to solve the crisis.
Carter said she stayed up until 6 a.m. Saturday inviting each alderman to attend the hearing, but said she didn't receive a single response.
Carter called the closing of Logan Square’s clinic “the biggest farce” as patients were “thrown out on the street” without fair warning or community input. Some ended up in jail.
But when patients suffering from mental disorders leave jail they are often left with no support on the outside, according to Anne Sheetz, a Logan Square resident who participated in the 2012 sit-in to save the Northwest Clinic.
“The [best] outcome [of the public hearing] would be that the clinics that were closed would be reopened,” she said. “That would certainly be cheaper than putting people in jail. We’re just shifting costs from one budget to another — I can’t imagine a crazier mental health policy.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has said that that 85 percent of the clients of the old clinics had obtained help at the remaining city centers or at private providers. It also said the Affordable Care Act has greatly expanded mental health services for low-income residents.
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