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.


 Darryl Gumm                                      Fred Friedman                          N’Dana Carter

Community Mental                            Next Steps                              Southside Together

Health Board of Chicago                                                                   Organizing for Power (STOP)


One thought on “Letter to Mayor’s Chief of Staff

  1. Maintenance of city mental health services is in keeping with CDPH’ s strategic priority #2 to “assure access to needed physical and mental health services” and recognition that CDPH “is a critical part of both the local primary care and mental health safety net systems.” [1]

    According to the CDPH Strategic Plan 2006-2011, “Each year, an estimated 469,959 Chicago adults suffer from a mental disorder, 115,354 from a serious mental illness. Less than one-third receive any type of treatment.” Consistent with recent individual testimonies, the city’s private non-profit health care providers have indicated in the health department’s own report, The Chicago Health Care Access Puzzle (November 2008), that increasing numbers of the uninsured are having difficulty obtaining mental health care, that “Chicago’s mental health system does not meet the needs of the population” and “a larger safety net mental health workforce and more services in many areas of Chicago are needed.” [2]

    The health department has provided mental health services because of its “belief that there is a public health need and the Department has an ethical obligation to meet it in fulfilling its mission.” Moreover, “the decisions to deliver and accept funding for these services were deliberately made based on the organizational mission and understanding of public health.” [1]

    [1] CDPH Strategic Plan 2006-2011, Chicago Department of Public Health
    [2] Getzenberg, J. et al. The Chicago Health Care Access Puzzle: Fitting the Pieces Together. Chicago: Chicago Department of Public Health, Office of Policy & Planning, 2008

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