Last November, the Daley administration announced that it planned to devote $7 million in tax increment financing (TIF) subsidies to the construction of a new plaza at the intersection of Franklin and Randolph in Chicago. At the time, Daley described it as a “boon for ...
Last November, the Daley administration announced that it planned to devote $7 million in tax increment financing (TIF) subsidies to the construction of a new plaza at the intersection of Franklin and Randolph in Chicago. At the time, Daley described it as a “boon for downtown workers, tourists and West Loop residents.”
Today, the Tribune reported that City Hall has given the initial nod to closing four mental health centers on Chicago’s South Side (and left the door open for another closure on the Northwest Side). We followed up with Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman Tim Hadac about the story this afternoon. He said that the closings are the result of the state cutting the budget for mental health programs by $1.4 million earlier this year. “If we don’t have the resources, we can’t keep [the centers] open,” he said.
We’ve previously pointed out why the state’s decision to cut critical social services is shortsighted. But equally troubling is Daley’s willingness to cut core services to the bone while not hesitating to use taxpayer dollars on parks or plazas or, most glaringly, the 2016 Olympic bid, as one public health advocate noted in the Tribune article:
“A lot of people are going to be left in the cold,” said Badonna Reingold, a retired city social worker and activists with the Community Mental Health Board of Chicago. “If the city can support the [2016 Olympic bid], they can come up with some money for the most vulnerable people.”
Speaking of being “left in the cold,” our calculations show that a trip from the far South Side to one of the remaining mental health centers could take as long as two hours on public transportation, as appointments are scheduled around availability. Public health experts know better than to expect people in the depths of depression or with other serious psychological problems to transfer from bus to train to bus again to see a counselor or therapist. Then there’s the issue of whether willing patients would even be able to score an appointment.
Talking to us today, Jim Weber of the Coalition to Save our Mental Health Centers echoed Reingold's complaint about the city's spending priorities. ”They claim they don’t have the funds,” he said. “It’s just not true.”
For more on this issue, check out the Reader’s look at the city’s declining mental health budget.