Advocates decry closing of mental health clinics in Chicago

But officials say the closings, which planned to shutter six of the city's 12 mental health clinics, actually expanded care for those with mental illnesses.

Chicago Tribune: Chicago Mental Health Clinic Closings Spark Opposing Views
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's mental health care policies went on trial at City Hall Tuesday, with critics saying many patients ended up homeless, jailed or dead after the mayor closed half of the city's clinics, while city officials maintained that care for the mentally ill actually has been expanded. Those opposing views were aired during nearly five hours of testimony before the City Council Health Committee, where advocates for reopening the closed clinics got the hearing they've been seeking for years. There was no clear verdict on what needs to be done, although all parties agreed on the need for expanded and improved mental health care for low-income city residents after years of local, state and federal cuts (Dardick, 8/19).

Chicago Tribune: Chicago Council To Hold Hearing On Closing Of Mental Health Clinics
More than two years after Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed six of the city's mental health clinics, patients, unions and other critics that continue to oppose the move are getting a hearing on the matter. They contend many patients "fell into severe depression, addiction, psychosis, incarceration and general crisis due to losing their clinics and/or therapists," according to a news release issued this morning. City officials, meanwhile, maintain that they worked to help all displaced patients find other options, either at clinics that remained open or at other nonprofit clinics that receive federal funding (Dardick, 8/19).

The Chicago Sun-Times: Mental Health Advocates Blast Emanuel's Clinic Closings
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's two-year-old plan to close six of the city's 12 mental health clinics came under withering attack Tuesday, with advocates accusing the mayor of throwing Chicago's most vulnerable residents to the wolves. Cut off from familiar therapists and forced to travel longer for treatment, thousands of patients fell through the cracks, sometimes tearful mental health advocates claimed. Some [dissolved] into depression or returned to past addictions. Others were arrested, turning Cook County Jail into, what Sheriff Tom Dart has called the "largest mental health hospital" where patients are "criminalized" instead of being given the care they desperately need (Spielman, 8/19).

Elsewhere, mental health care in San Antonio, Texas, is examined, and rural states use a different kind of counselor to deliver mental health care --

Kaiser Health News: Wrestling With A Texas County's Mental Health System
Evans is the director of the Center for Health Care Services, the community mental health system in San Antonio and Bexar County. Texas ranks 49th out of 50 states in how much funding it commits to mental health. But under Evans' leadership, Bexar County has built a mental health system considered a model for other cities across the country -- one that has saved $50 million over the past five years (Gold, 8/20).

Stateline: In Rural States 'Pastoral Counselors' Help Fill Mental Health Gap
Kentucky recently became the sixth state (joining Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee) to allow pastoral counselors to become licensed mental health counselors. As of now, Kentucky only has 20 licensed pastoral counselors. But the hope is that licensing will increase those numbers by making it easier for pastoral counselors to receive health insurance reimbursement and by adding luster to the field (Ollove, 8/20).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



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