Mayor Daley reneges on his promise to keep four south side mental health centers open

Mayor Daley reneges on his promise to keep four south side mental health centers open.

Chicago public health commissioner, Terry Mason, told the Chicago Board of Health on Wednesday that once again CDPH will move to close 4 or 5 mental health centers in 30 to 45 days. This time North River Mental Health Center will be included among the centers to be closed. Reportedly, the commissioner has or will brief local aldermen about the closures. The closures have been sanctioned by the Mayor’s office.

Dr. Mason is blaming state funding cuts for the impending mental health center closures. Although the state is making cuts, we are still experiencing repercussions from the city’s mismanagement of the transition to mental health fee-for-service service billing (including software system issues) and ongoing city hiring freezes and cuts in city mental health funding. Half of the 40 plus positions lost from the CDPH mental health services budget in fiscal 2009 were due to reduced local (not state) funding.

Adding to the injury is the decision by the Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health (IDHS/DMH) [based on Governor Quinn’s “doomsday state budget”] to stop funding non-Medicaid services. Non-Medicaid services include services provided to individuals not covered by Medicaid. They also include other services that assist individuals (Medicaid insured or not) in recovery such as vocational services and job retention and supports, and oral interpretation and sign language services. This is a major policy change being implemented by IDHS, a change that virtually eliminates most of the safety net community mental health services for the uninsured. According to IDHS billing reports for 2007 and 2008, just over half of CDPH mental health center client service counts are non-Medicaid. It will be difficult for the city to argue that there are other local providers who can step in and absorb the uninsured because other community mental health providers are losing their funding for the uninsured, too.

CDPH is planning to close most of its seven primary health centers. Last week the Chicago Neighborhood Health Centers Board met in closed session to discuss criteria for choosing which of the seven centers to close or turnover to interested federally qualified health centers (FQHC). The CNHC Board has taken no steps, to date, to inform primary care clinic consumers that they are having such discussions.

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