Protesters decry closing of mental health clinics

April 16, 2012 5:09:00 PM PDT
Protesters against the closing of mental health clinics in Chicago spoke out in front of the offices of the Chicago Department of Public Health just before the agency's board meeting Monday.

In his 2012 budget, Mayor Rahm Emanuel recommended reducing the number of city health clinics from 12 to six.

Some of the 23 people who were arrested last week during the occupation of the Woodlawn Clinic, one of the six clinics slated to close this month, recounted the story of their arrest.

"I was one of the ones arrested on Friday," said activist Diana Adams. "The way they came in at us, it was devastating."

"I was arrested," said activist Horace Howard. "I went to jail for this particular cause. We need these clinics open. They provide services in the community that right now is under attack."

The group said they warned mental health officials at Monday's meeting about the disastrous consequences of closing clinics.

"We have told the mayor, shown proof that his plan does not work. We are now waiting for him to come to 63rd and Woodlawn at our site to negotiate in good faith," said protester N'Dana Carter.

Mental health commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair said the department reforms are expanding access to mental health services and increasing support for the uninsured

"We invite them to our transition plan meetings every week," said Dr. Choucair. "We are doing everything we can to make sure we are engaging them in that process."

Dr. Choucair said two clinics closed last week, and another four , including Woodlawn, are scheduled to be closed at the end of this month.

The activists said they will continue to demonstrate and fight to keep the clinics open.