Mental Health Advocates Warn of Dangers of Privatizing City Mental Health Clinics

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Ahead of 2016 budget release, advocates demand public commitment to mental health clinics

 

Mental Health consumers and advocates will hold a press conference to demand that Mayor Rahm Emanuel make a long term commitment to keep the city’s six remaining mental health clinics OPEN and PUBLIC, arguing that the clinics provide a unique and vital safety net for those most in need. Such a commitment would have immediate benefits –reassuring current and prospective clients, improving staff morale and making it easier to recruit new staff, especially psychiatrists.

Mental health policy experts, advocates, consumers, providers, and supporters will hold a press conference Thursday, September 17, at City Hall, 2nd Floor, at 10:30 a.m., to call on Mayor Emanuel to make a long-term commitment to the city mental health clinics ahead of release of the 2016 budget proposal.

 

The Mental Health Movement fought hard in 2012 to stop the closure of six of the twelve city mental health clinics and points to the serious impact of those closures – a spike in hospitalizations, hundreds of former clients unaccounted for, a growing mental health problem in Cook County jail and many individuals who suffered serious consequences. Any closures of the remaining clinics would be likely to have equal or more devastating impacts.

The advocates also oppose any plans to privatize the clinics. Privatization would result in another disruption of care with no demonstrated benefits in quality or savings. They point to the closure of several private mental health clinics in recent years and the last minute save by Cook County Health and Hospital System to prevent the closure of the C4 network of mental health clinics as evidence of the importance of a public safety net.

The advocates and consumers are releasing a list of immediate steps CDPH should take to improve the clinics, including:

Join managed care networks. The state is moving Medicaid recipients to managed care entities at the same time that over 150,000 Chicago residents have signed up for Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act.  In order to get reimbursed for services provided to these clients, CDPH must make every effort to join several managed care networks.

Conduct community outreach and public education. According to CDPH, the six mental health care clinics have fallen short of the goal of serving 4,000 clients annually.  Yet there has not been a serious effort to let residents in communities served by the clinics know about the services.  Nor has there been any effort to conduct a more general public education effort to encourage people to get help and give them guidance on where to find help.

Ensure adequate staffing. CDPH management has failed to aggressively recruit psychiatrists, which has caused problems for current clients and has resulted in new clients being turn away.

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