Why Mayor Lightfoot must reopen shuttered mental health clinics
In 2011, Rahm Emanuel, listening to the Civic Federation, outsourced outpatient health services and closed six mental health clinics. Meanwhile, other large urban areas have expanded mental health.
By Letters to the Editor May 20, 2019, 12:30pm CDT
First published in the Chicago sun-times as a response to this oped
In a recent op-ed, HRDI CEO Joel Jordan and Kennedy Forum head Cheryl Potts argue against reopening Chicago’s mental health clinics. Instead, Cook County’s network of community health centers are the best places for care. But the status quo hasn’t worked.
In 2011, Rahm Emanuel, listening to the Civic Federation, outsourced outpatient health services and closed six mental health clinics. Desperate clients occupied the Woodlawn clinic, branding Rahm “Mayor 1%.”
From 2010 to 2017, Illinois has cut mental health services by half, from serving 160,000 to 72,000 patients. Two other community mental health clinic providers closed in 2012. In 2015, with therapists and clients protesting to save the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4), Cook County created the Behavioral Health Consortium, headed by Jordan, two years after expanding medical care through the Affordable Care Act.
Other large urban areas have expanded mental health. After adding a $322 million Behavioral Health Center at King-Drew Hospital to its 85 public mental health clinics, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas explained how mental health and supportive housing are part of criminal justice reform, proclaiming, “We simply must double down on diversion because one cannot get well in a cell.”
Public mental health is not just for the poor. Despite federal parity laws, families with job-based coverage still have trouble getting care. With mental health losing money, providers shirk services; Kaiser therapists have threatened to strike for adequate staffing.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot should listen to Chicago voters and reopen the clinics.
Daniel Lichtenstein-Boris, MPH