Quick Hit Matthew Blake Tuesday May 1st, 2012, 1:46pm

Mental Health Advocates To Meet With City; Alderman Pushes For Hearing

A Mental Health Movement coalition member says the group will meet with officials from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office this Thursday to discuss the city closing six of its mental health clinics in last month, including the shut down of four clinics yesterday.

“We are hoping to get a little more out of them in terms of restoring services,” says coalition member Alex Goldenberg.

A call and e-mail to the mayor’s office concerning the meeting was not immediately returned.  The city agreed to create a mental heath satellite office in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood, after meeting with mental health advocates and religious leaders last week.

Mental health advocates face something of a choice between working with the mayor’s office and Department of Public Health to get more comprises or continuing their public stance that the city must re-open all six clinics.

“We feel that the 12 clinics are already a compromise,” Goldenberg says. “Before the budget passed, our demand was about expanding services.”

Also, the coalition plans to work further with the Occupy Chicago movement: yesterday’s protests featured a sizable contingent of self-identified Occupy members and featured the “Mic checks” of Occupy meetings.

Meanwhile, Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) is pushing a resolution that the City Council convene a health committee hearing on city mental health care. Sixteen aldermen signed the resolution, but it has not received the necessary support of Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection.

“The president of the council and chair of the committee make a decision on whether or not resolutions go forward,” Cochran says. “Rahm Emanuel is president of the council and Ald. Cardenas is chairman of the health committee.”

Cochran – who represents the Woodlawn neighborhood, a central site for the mental health protests – says that his constituents demanded a hearing. The alderman says he would also like more information from the Public Health Department about their mental health care transition plan.

For example, Cochran wants assurances the department will keep enough Spanish speaking mental health therapists on the city payroll. “Even if we’re not successful in keeping clinics open, it is just good management to make sure what is taking place happens in a good fashion,” Cochran says.

According to Goldenberg, protesters interrupted today’s health committee meeting. The scheduled agenda consisted solely of whether the committee ought to have a hearing that looked at a higher sales tax for sugary beverages.


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