Lightfoot follows Emanuel failure on mental health services

Lightfoot follows Emanuel failure on mental health services
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Lightfoot follows Emanuel failure on mental health services

Mental Health Advocates: Mayor Lightfoot’s budget breaks her promise to increase support for public mental health services and to re-open closed clinics

The Collaborative for Community Wellness, a coalition of Mental Health Advocates, says Mayor Lightfoot’s budget betrayed them because it does not meaningfully increase funding for Public Mental Health Clinics and does not call for re-opening closed clinics.

While the coalition was happy to see mental health prioritized in the Mayor’s budget address, it was saddened to see a continuation of Rahm Emanuel’s mental health policy, which was to privatize mental health services.

Advocates point out that this policy does not address long term chronic mental health needs and, by only giving grants to private organizations, does not sustainably invest in a long term public mental health safety net.

Chicago Mental Health Chart shows reduction in how Chicago has supported mental health services over the years

Chicago Mental Health Chart shows reduction in how Chicago has supported mental health services over the years

On the campaign trail Mayor Lightfoot was asked if she would re-open City mental health clinics, she replied: “of course”, today advocates say she is going back on her word. Advocates are demanding the budget be amended to increase support for frontline positions in city clinics and to open new public clinics.

Diane Adams is a patient at a City of Chicago Mental Health Clinic and says: “investing in private clinics will not make sure that people like me can count on mental health services for the long run. My son was killed, I was a in a coma, it was long term therapy that helped me through it. Only investment in public clinics can ensure that there will continue to be help for people like me.”

According to the advocates since 2012 the city has cut 50 frontline positions in mental health clinics.  The current budget does not add a single position among clinic staff. The funds the Mayor says will go to mental health appear to be allocated entirely to outsourced coordination services.

While the Mayor touts an increase in the number of positions in public health, the increase is in grants administration, administration and back office positions, not frontline clinicians. The Mayor said investments were planned for public clinics, but the only specific investments mentioned in budget documents were electronic medical records and telepsychiatry (an Emmanuel administration initiative to replace onsite staff psychiatrists with contracted Skype psychiatry sessions).

The Collaborative for Community Wellness is a coalition of more than 20 mental health providers and advocates including: Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Southside Together Organizing for Power, the Mental Health Movement and AFSCME Council 31

Ray Hanania

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