Mental health advocates intensified their opposition today to the city’s plan to close six of 12 mental health clinics by occupying the lobby outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office – even as the city confirmed that they would go forward today with the last four clinic closings.
Also today, the Mental Health Movement coalition of patients and advocates asked President Barack Obama and Gov. Pat Quinn to step in, holding a rally outside Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters in downtown Chicago and Quinn’s office in the city’s Thompson Center. Representatives of the president and governor both silently listened to the ‘Stay of Execution’ letter for the clinics, which was read to them by Mental Health Movement organizer N’Dana Carter.
Here is video of Carter reading the letter and also meeting with Quinn spokesman Andrew Mason:
The Mental Health Movement plans a press conference outside the mayor’s office at 5:15 p.m. to denounce the closings; public health activits Dr. Quentin Young is expected to be in attendance. (Check back with Progress Illinois for cover of this evening's press conference.) The Chicago Department of Public Health is turning off the lights today at clinics in the Auburn-Gresham, Back of the Yards, Beverly/Morgan Park, and Woodlawn neighborhoods. The closings follow the city shutting down clinics in the Logan Square and Rogers Park neighborhoods earlier this month. Six city mental health clinics will remain open.
Emanuel spokeswoman Caroline Weisser confirmed that the city is going through with the closing schedule it has had since February with one tweak – the Public Health Department would set up a “satellite office” for mental health patients in Woodlawn.
Weisser stated that the Woodlawn clinic will nevertheless close, and that the city has not determined a location for this satellite office.
According to the city, the clinic closings are part of a transition to improve mental health care.
Protesters though, contended today that the mayor is taking mental health care down a dangerous road of privatization. For example, the city is taking bids from the private sector for psychiatric services.
“They are just trying to privatize everything, instead of looking at health care as a basic human right,” contended protester Tom Alter, who said he was a student at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
“I think its very important to keep services available especially in the social and economic crisis we’re going through,” said Bob Simpson, a retired Oak Park resident, who states that he is active in the Occupy Chicago movement. “It’s supposed to be a public service.”
Another common theme was that Emanuel has ignored the vulnerable citizens that need public mental health care. Carter said that she hopes elected officials “understand that the poor are voters.”
Linda Hatcher, a patient at the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic, echoed these themes and also expressed fear that the city would close all the public mental health clinics. Here is video of Hatcher:
Check back in later for more news on today’s protests and closings.