Unable – literally – to get a hearing at City Hall, a group protested today outside the Northwest Mental Health Care Clinic in Logan Square, one of six clinics the Chicago Department of Public Health is scheduled to close in April.
Besides the Logan Square rally, protesters, including AFSCME Local 31 public employees and Mental Health Movement coalition members demonstrated outside clinics set to close in the Rogers Park and Auburn-Gresham neighborhoods.
Protesters stressed that closings will result in 155 public employee layoffs and the re-routing of 1,300 mental health care patients to one of the six mental health clinics that will remain open.
The city is estimated to save $2 million out of a $6 billion annual budget from the clinic closings. “Budgets aren’t numbers on a page,” AFSCME Local-31 spokesman Anders Lindall said at the rally. “They are decisions that have life and death consequences on the city.”
Here is more from Lindall and the protest:
But chances of the city re-examining the closings look increasingly slim.
Ald. George Cardens (12th), the chairman of the City Council’s Health and Environmental Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Public Health Department budget, told Progress Illinois in January that he would have a hearing on the closings.
Such a hearing could give AFSCME and the Mental Health Movement coalition an audience of aldermen they didn’t have before the city’s budget passed council chambers 50-0 in November.
But Cardenas told Progress Illinois today that, “There are no scheduled hearings and nothing [is] on the horizon.”
“I am willing to hold hearings,” Cardenas explains. “But aldermen are not coming forward and unless aldermen request them, I cannot hold hearings on my own.”
Cardenas’s statement doesn’t jibe with a resolution by Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) to hold hearings. Protesters have got behind Cochran’s resolution – at the Logan Square rally demonstrators marched to 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno’s office and presented Moreno with the resolution.
But Cardenas maintains that aldermen, including Cochran, have not made a direct request. “Those aldermen need to call me and that hasn’t happened,” Cardenas says.
A call to Cochran’s office today was not returned.
The Mental Health Movement coalition has a different version of events, claiming Emanuel strong-armed Cardenas to not hold hearings. Cardenas says this isn’t true. Calls to the mayor’s office were not returned.
The scheduled closures come on top of the state making its own mental health budget cuts, with Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal of facility closings in Tinley Park and Rockford.