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)