Rahm In Chicago

Amid the uproar over Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close dozens of elementary schools, we shouldn’t forget that it’s been almost a year since the mayor closed six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics.

In fact, activists from across the city are gearing up for another round of protests to mark the April 9 anniversary of the closings.

“They’ve been pimping us for years,” says N’Dana Carter, a member of the Mental Health Movement, a citywide coalition. But “every once in a while even an old whore gets mad and fights back.”

Will the fighters prevail? That is, will a relatively cloutless coalition of low-income patients and activists force the mayor to reopen the clinics?

If I were a betting man, I’d say the odds are against them. The harsh fact remains that the clinics serve a particularly vulnerable constituency that doesn’t typically have access to the mayor: poor people with mental health issues.

That’s what made them such a relatively easy target in the first place. There’s nothing like kicking around some poor people to prove that you’re making the tough decisions to fix the city.

At this point I should mention that the mayor—whose press office did not respond for comment—has a vastly different spin on the closings—any closings, though in this case I’m talking about the clinic closings.

He doesn’t even call them closings, despite the fact that the clinics were closed. Instead, Mayor Emanuel calls them “consolidations.”

Oh, read the city’s press release yourself: “In 2012, the Chicago Department of Public health implemented a mental health reform plan to improve the quality of mental health services provided by the City. The reform plan focuses on serving the uninsured and strengthening the city-wide mental health system to better address the needs of all who depend on mental health services . . .”

In many ways the debate over the clinics mirrors the one raging over school closings. The mayor says patient visits to clinics have been falling steadily over the last few years, in part because the population in neighborhoods like Woodlawn has been dropping. He says we can actually do more with less if we’re just more efficient.

The activists counter that mental health services were inadequate to begin with. They believe the city’s cooking the books to make it seem like patient visits are dramatically falling, thus making it easier to justify closing the clinics.

It’s as though the language came from the same spinmeister’s playbook: They’re not cuts—it’s reform.

The mayor says he saved an estimated $2.2 million with the closings. But as the activists point out, he doled out $500,000 to private mental health providers to help pick up the slack. So he really only saved $1.7 million—in a budget of more than $6 billion—while firing 33 employees. They were among 125 medical employees, most of them black or Hispanic, who got the ax in Mayor Emanuel’s first budget


Speaking of schools:


Scroll down at the above link to view the racial make-up of the closed schools.  Thanks to NS for the above links.


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