Members of Occupy Wall Street are reporting that dozens of people who use Chicago’s mental health clinics along with other advocates have barricaded themselves into the Woodlawn Clinic at 6337 S. Woodlawn, one of 6 clinics facing closure in the city.
The patients, family members, and mental health advocates say they intend to remain there until Mayor Rahm Emanuel agrees to keep all of Chicago’s public clinics open, fully funded and fully staffed.
According to the Chicago Tribune, some 5,100 patients receive services through the city’s network of mental health clinics. About 3,000 are uninsured or underinsured, and another 2,100 carry Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. The plan to close the clinics was made toward the end of 2011, and will save taxpayers about $3 million, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
The City says it will refer the insured clients to nonprofit community mental health providers, but patients and their advocates have their doubts. Not to mention that thousands without insurance will be left to fend for themselves.
The Mental Health Movement, which put out a report and a video undermining the Chicago Department of Public Health’s claim that all patients will continue to receive care, has been calling for hearings on the clinic closures since October. Despite repeated promises and a resolution calling for hearings, the Emanuel Administration has prevented any hearings from taking place in order to avoid public scrutiny of the plan, which has come under fire even from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
“We have tried everything we could to be heard. We visited Mayor Emanuel when he was a candidate. We delivered him over 4,000 letters. We have talked to almost all 50 Alderman. We have held press conferences, rallies and even sat-in for 10 hours on the 5th floor of City Hall. We are the ones who know the disaster these clinic closures will mean for our communities and our city but Mayor Emanuel has been unwilling to listen to us, so we are taking drastic measures to avoid a tragedy and defend our human rights,” says N’Dana Carter, who goes to one of the city clinics and is a spokesperson for the Mental Health Movement.
The people barricaded in the clinic have enough food and supplies to stay for months and are threatening to do so unless Mayor Emanuel meets the following five demands:
- Keep all 12 city mental health clinics public, open, fully funded and fully staffed
- Stop plans to privatize Chicago’s 7 neighborhood health centers
- Hire more doctors, therapists, nurses, social workers and other clinic staff
- Reinstate the drug assistance program
- Expand the public mental health safety net to cover unmet community needs
Those in Chicago who wish to support the patients and join them in occupying the clinic are invited to bring a tent to 6337 S Woodlawn Avenue. For updates, follow @STOPChicago on Twitter, or search the hashtag #SaveOurClinics.
Image via Thinkstock