Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to Speak on Importance of Mental Health Services at Public Meeting on September 5

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–September 4, 2012.  Less than five months after the closure of half of Chicago’s public mental health clinics, growing concern over the consequences of unattended community mental health needs is prompting widespread calls for their re-opening. The latest voice supporting the movement for re-opened, fully funded, and fully staffed public clinics is Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who will speak at a forum in Logan Square, at 6:30pm, on Wednesday September 5th, at the Episcopal Church Nuestra Señora, located at 2610 N. Francisco (Logan Blvd and Francisco). He will be joined by mental health professionals and consumers of the now-closed Northwest Mental Health Clinic, formerly located on Milwaukee Ave in the heart of Logan Square. Speakers will be urging the aldermen in attendance to fund all of the closed mental health clinics in 2013, while participants add hundreds of signatures to a larger-than-life petition to be sent to Mayor Emanuel.

Sheriff Dart warned the city last December that closing the clinics would flood the jail with those who could have avoided incarceration if they had access to adequate mental health services. His warnings have come true, with the numbers of incarcerated people dealing with mental illness rising, and the safety net continuing to erode. City data showed that in just the month of April, when the six mental health clinics closed, psychiatric hospitalizations doubled compared to the same month last year. In addition to the closed city clinics, two non-profit providers have gone under since April as well, partly due to cuts in state funding.

The public meeting, hosted by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) , and the Mental Health Movement Latino Chapter, will particularly look at the negative impact of the closure of the Northwest clinic, which for 30 years provided an array of bilingual mental health services to residents of Logan Square and surrounding neighborhoods. There is a crisis of culturally-competent care for Chicago’s large Spanish-speaking population. The closed Northwest and Back of the Yards clinics were the only public bilingual mental health facilities in Chicago. When they closed, half of the city’s Spanish-speaking therapists lost their jobs. The same is true for Chicago’s African-American population, as clinic closures and layoffs eliminated all of the city’s black male therapists. 

Speakers at the forum will include:

  • Cook County Sheiff Tom Dart, who will speak on the connection between mental health services and public safety  
  • Rebecca Paz-Ford, child/adolescent psychologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital and psychiatry professor at Northwestern University, who will address the impact of lack of mental health services on children and families, and the importance of culturally competent care 
  • Debbie Delgado and Florencia Cano, who received services at the now-closed Northwest Mental Health Clinic and will speak to their experiences since the clinic’s closure 
  • Crystal Colon of Iraq Veterans Against the War who will address the impact of lack of mental health services on veterans

Aldermen Colon, Reboyras, Moreno, Waguespak, Maldonado and Suarez have been invited and several are expected to attend. They will be asked to sign on to a letter of support for the clinics and fight to get them put back into the 2013 budget.

WHAT:Public meeting with Sheriff Dart, aldermen and mental health advocates

WHEN: Weds 9/5, 6:30pm
WHERE: Episcopal Church Nuestra Señora, 2610 N. Francisco (Logan Blvd and Francisco)
WHO: Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, local aldermen, community and mental health advocates. Convened by Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), and Mental Health Movement Latino Chapter