The Mental Health Movement coalition says that the Chicago Department of Public Health wrote a letter to each patient of the city’s mental health services clinics this weekend outlining when the city will close six of its 12 mental health facilities and what patients must do in response.
The city stated in its 2012 budget that six of the 12 clinics would close by June 30, 2012. But the budget did not outline when exactly the clinics would close or how the closings would impact the more than 3,000 Chicago residents that use city mental health services.
Mental health advocates held out hope that the city would reverse course. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a January 22 news conference that he was open to more dialogue on the closings. And the chairman of the City Council health committee, Ald. George Cardenas (12th), vowed to hold hearings on reversing the planned closings.
The letter, though, suggests finality to the decision.
N’Dana Carter, an organizer with the Mental Health Movement and also a patient at the Greater Grand/Mid-South Mental Health Center, read over the phone a letter that she said she received at her home mailing address Saturday.
The Northwest and Northtown/Rogers Park clinics will close April 9, according to the letter, and then the Woodlawn, Auburn/Gresham, Beverly/Morgan Park, and Back of the Yards Clinics will shutter April 30.
The letter explains that 1,300 current city mental health clients who don’t have health insurance will continue treatment at their current facilities.
Another 1,300 uninsured will move to a different facility. Also, 700 clients who have either government-funded or private health insurance will be transferred to a community mental health provider.
The letter informs clients that they will discuss with their therapist, at their next therapy appointment, what their mental health treatment plan will be going forward.
“People were frightened by the letter,” Carter says, adding that it did not tell clients if they would be able to continue with their current therapist after clinic closings.
A call and e-mail to both the Chicago Department of Public Health and Mayor’s office was not immediately returned. *
* UPDATE 1 (2/14/12, 11:00 a.m.): Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman Jose Munoz confirmed over e-mail that CDPH did, in fact, send this letter to the city's mental health patients. "We sent a letter on February 8th, 2012 to clients of CDPH's mental health clinics informing them of the consolidations that will take place in April," Munoz wrote.