$2.5 Million Federal Stimulus Funds for City Mental Health Centers

On April 22, 2009, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance specifying how various City departments anticipate using $340,815,000 in Federal stimulus funds. The Department of Health is slated to receive $2,500,000 of Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) Funds to “make mental health services available at four City of Chicago mental health clinics.”

Funding is expected to pay for 34 positions.

You can access the ordinance here:
http://www.chicityclerk.com/legislation/passedlegislation/2009/apr22/O2009-1549.pdf

See pages 1, 3, 5, and 7

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Letter to Mayor’s Chief of Staff

 April 21st, 2009

Dear Paul Volpe, 

Thank you for keeping the four south side mental health clinics open. We also thank you for your willingness to listen and respond to those of us who would be directly affected by the clinic closures – community members, consumers and workers. This is an important step in the right direction. Because Chicago’s policies often set a national precedent, it is essential to show our continued commitment to mental health. Like fireman and police, mental health services are “first responder” services that are essential to every community’s stability and health. We are pleased that all of the clinics are open again providing these indispensable services.

As we made clear in our meeting, closing these clinics would hurt communities, consumers and tax payers. You heard powerful testimony based in past and present experience indicating that some clients, particularly the chronically mentally ill, would drop out of care, become isolated and discouraged, and hurt themselves, their families and communities. This would lead to taxpayers paying more for police, health care, incarceration and homelessness.

We understand that the Daley Administration is working to quickly resolve the billing problems and work with the State to get the grant restored to its original level. We also understand that it has committed to use Federal stimulus money as a bridge to keep these centers open in the mean time. Finally we understand that you have committed to work with us to developing a long-term solution to providing adequate mental health care to the people of Chicago.

As we work together, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping these services public. Many people cannot find adequate mental health services in the private sector, where many clinics are not taking new patients or the uninsured. Moreover there is a fundamental difference in accountability between institutions that are legally accountable only to their boards and public agencies who are accountable to city government and the community. Providing mental health service is as important as providing police or trash pick-up., The worsening economy makes these services even more needed. It is important that we prioritize strengthening these services and keeping them in the public sector.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding progress on re-hiring the laid off staff, fixing the billing problem, and planning for the long-term stability of these services. We look forward to meeting again soon to elaborate the details of our proposal, hear updates on the City’s progress, coordinate advocacy at the State level, and continue working together to make this City a national model for effective, sustainable provision of community mental health services. We will call you this week to set up a next meeting.

 
Sincerely,

 Darryl Gumm                                      Fred Friedman                          N’Dana Carter

Community Mental                            Next Steps                              Southside Together

Health Board of Chicago                                                                   Organizing for Power (STOP)

D.C. Public Mental Health Services To Be Privatized

As Trusted Mental Health Clinics Prepare to Close, Some Clients Cry Out -Washington Post
A group of the city’s mental health clients cried out to D.C. Council members from the steps of City Hall yesterday, asking them to reconsider a plan to close six public clinics, lay off dozens of health care workers they trust, and send clients to get treatment at private clinics from doctors they distrust.

D.C. to Close 6 Mental Health Clinics – myfoxdc
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The District is shutting down its mental health clinics to cut costs, sending the mentally ill to private clinics instead.

Some patients worry the move will hurt the city’s most vulnerable residents. By shutting down the city’s six mental health clinics and privatizing services, the city expects to save up to $14 million.

D.C. to Close City-run Mental Health Centers -News8
Advocates like Robin Hodges object to the plan. She is both a patient and city employee hired to advocate for other patients, who are called consumers:

“City council, the mayor — all of them, they see it more as a money, not a health issue,” she said.

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Mental Health Clinic Staff to Resume Their Previous Locations in 2 Weeks

From email, sent Friday, April 10, 2009,  from Chicago Department of Public Health Labor Relations Supervisor James Karagianes to union members:

“After several meetings with mental health advocates, the city has decided to use economic stimulus funds to delay closing the four (4) mental health clinics that were scheduled for consolidation.

Therefore, please consider this  e-mail as official notification that all Mental Health Staff affected by the closure of the four (4) Mental Health Clinics will resume their previous locations in two weeks ( as early as April 20, 2009, but not later than May 1, 2009) to allow time to notify clients of the change.  All affected staff will return to where they were before the movement relating to the closures was made.  Please keep in mind that it will take some time (up to two weeks) to provide services at these facilities.  We will apply the resources we have today and will have an opportunity to enhance those once we get the stimulus funds.

Please note that this is an interim solution as the City works to determine a way to keep these centers open for the long term.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions regarding this matter.

Thank you,

Jim”

Commissioner Says Mental Health Centers Will Re-Open

From: Mason, Terry
Sent: Thursday, April 09, 2009 8:29 PM
To: CDPH Distribution List
Subject: Mental Health Clinics

Greetings…..

As you have read, heard or seen in the news, economic stimulus funds will be used to delay closing of the four CDPH mental health clinics that were scheduled for consolidation.

We are working to re-open the clinics over the next two weeks.  In the meantime, all CDPH mental health staff should report to their current work assignments until further notice. Details on staffing of the four clinics will be coming soon from Deputy Commissioner Sylvia Riperton-Lewis and others, through appropriate channels.

Use of stimulus funding is an interim solution as City officials work to determine a way to keep these centers open for the long term.

When the decision was made by CDPH to consolidate, there was no access to these stimulus funds.

That said, all of us recognize that government must live within its means, just as everyone else must—especially in a harsh and worsening recession, when tax revenues are not only flat but plummeting every day.

On the other hand, I know that all of us at CDPH fully understand the importance of mental health care, and we understand the costs–the human costs and the financial costs–of untreated mental illness.

Therefore, we’re doing all we can to keep these four clinics open, at least in the short-term.

In the current economic climate, no one can guarantee future funding, but we will guarantee that we will try our best to use the limited resources we have to serve as many Chicagoans as we can—just as we always do.

Sincerely,
Dr. Terry Mason

What We Want

What We Want

1. Keep the twelve mental health clinics open. If the December 31
layoffs have created an imbalance in the work force, balance the work
force per the AFSCME contract.

2. Use a portion of the City stimulus money as bridge money that will
allow the City to take the necessary steps to recoup the money cut by
the State retroactively and ensure restoration of the previous level of
State funding going forward.

3. Recall the City workers laid off as a result of the loss of State funding
to ensure restoration of the previous level of State funding by
maintaining the client base and billing activity.

4. Establish a joint Management/Union employee involvement program
which will, in consultation with mental health consumers and
advocates, identify and implement the most efficient methods for
maximizing billing potential (including retro-active billing) without
impacting on the quality of patient services.

5. Establish a joint task force comprised of consumers, advocates, City Managers,
and the Union to study the feasibility of establishing a separate self-sustaining City of Chicago Mental Health Department.