Nobel Summit Representatives Visit Woodlawn Clinic to Learn about Effort to Save Chicago’s Mental Health Clinics
Ingeborg Breines, co-director of the Nobel Prize-winning International Peace Bureau, and Shan Cretin, chair of the Nobel Prize-winning American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), visited the occupation outside the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic at 63rd and Woodlawn on Thursday morning to show international concern around the Save Our Clinics movement, which has been fighting to get Mayor Rahm Emanuel cancel plans to cut life-saving mental health services in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Bergman and Cretin visited the patients, healthcare workers, and advocates on day 14 of their 24-hour-a-day demonstration outside one of the six mental health clinics slated to be closed by the city. The International Peace Bureau and American Friends Service Committee both organize against war and nuclear proliferation. War causes psychological trauma that can lead to mental illness, and many of the patients served by Chicago’s clinics are veterans. As peace activists and leaders of Nobel Laureate organizations, Bergman and Cretin shared their concerns about the billions that fund war while basic health services are being cut.
On Monday, April 30th, at 11am, the Mental Health Movement plans to visit Obama Campaign Headquarters at 130 E. Randolph to deliver what is now a global call to President Obama demanding a stay of execution for Chicago’s mental health clinics. Six of Chicago’s 12 public mental health clinics are currently being dismantled and are scheduled to be closed this month. Although only two of the six clinics slated for closure have shut their doors, the repercussions are already evident. Eighteen patients who can no longer access mental health care in their neighborhoods have been hospitalized or admitted to the psychiatric ward.
“Patients have been assigned to new clinics and told when they arrive for a first appointment that they are not accepted,” says Anne Scheetz, MD, FACP, who volunteers at the Northwest Mental Health Clinic, which was recently closed. “The wait for a first appointment at a new clinic is 45 days. Therapists and patients were assigned to one clinic, only to have the assignment changed with no notice to the patients who therefore missed their appointments. Monolingual Spanish patients are assigned to clinics where the therapists but not the staff speak Spanish — thus, they can’t make or change appointments or ask questions.”
On April 12th, 23 people – mostly patients of Chicago’s mental health clinics – were arrested barricading themselves into one of six mental health clinics that Mayor Emanuel aims to close by April 30th, 2012. Protesters have gathered 24-hours-a-day since then to call attention to the tragic consequences of closing mental health clinics. Patients, healthcare workers, and advocates say demonstrations will continue until Mayor Emanuel agrees to keep all the clinics open, fully funded and fully staffed.