Mayor Lightfoot, American Medical Association officials announce new health investments on West Side

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined leaders from the American Medical Association and West Side United Wednesday to announce $6 million in private sector investments for community improvements on the West Side.

West Side United will allocate the funds as low-interest loans to local businesses for economic development projects, health care initiatives and quality-of-life improvements, Mayor Lightfoot's office said.

"The investments we are making today with West Side United, the American Medical Association, and other community funding partners will allow us to improve the health of our residents and to drive quality-of-life improvements for our communities that have long been overlooked," said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "We thank these partners for responding to our call to action with INVEST South/West and for playing a crucial role in fostering inclusive economic growth for these communities on the West Side. With new city partners on board, this marks another step forward in my administration's commitment to ensuring community-based health care serving all of our residents, regardless of ZIP code."

West Side United was founded in 2017 and aims to reduce the life expectancy gap between the Loop and 10 West Side neighborhood by 50 percent by 2050.

The West Side United collaborative is comprised of six Chicago hospitals, including Rush University Medical Center, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, AMITA Health, Cook County Health, Sinai Health System, and University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

Darnell Shields knows firsthand the importance of community investment. He's the executive director of Austin Coming Together, an umbrella organization that helps community groups tap into available resources to bring about change on Chicago's West Side.

His organization is also a beneficiary, getting a low cost loan through West Side United to buy and rehab a former CPS warehouse into their office space.

"Our goal is clear: end the decades of disinvestment on the South and West sides and fully bring these communities into Chicago's economy," Lightfoot said during a Wednesday press conference.

However, some community groups have complained that the mayor is not listening to their concerns and proposed solutions to poverty.

"We're the ones who have gone through the struggles," said April Harris with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. "The mayor's not taking this very seriously."

The mayor has said she is committed to redeveloping the South and West sides and pointed to the millions of dollars that have already been pledged by private businesses, in addition to the new investment announced Wednesday, as an example of how success breeds success.

"We need an all-hands-on-deck approach," Lightfoot said. "Nobody needs a golden ticket to talk about the fact that one in five of our people are suffering."
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