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Chicago Communities Push to Reopen, Fund Public Mental Health Clinic

Six years ago, the city of Chicago closed half of its 12 mental health clinics, including locations serving some high-crime, low-income neighborhoods.

But last Friday, a group of community organizations delivered petitions to the city’s Board of Elections asking for a binding referendum on the November ballot that would reopen a clinic, with funding coming from the neighborhoods it would serve: Logan Square, Avondale and Hermosa.

“We’ve seen that poverty, violence, displacement, adverse child experiences all are a part of our mental well-being and our struggles mentally,” said the Rev. Bruce Ray, pastor of the Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ and a member of the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance, which helped gather the petition signatures. “For people who are undocumented, for people with no insurance, for people who have language barriers, there weren’t enough opportunities for them to access mental health services.”

Ray says the group collected and delivered some 4,400 signatures, far more than required. If the petitions are certified, the referendum to open a publicly funded mental health clinic will appear on the November general election ballot in the precincts that would pay to fund the center. The additional tax would cost about $15-$20 annually, according to Block Club Chicago.

“I think it’s a big conversation happening citywide and nationwide – yet what we see is lots of discussion, but then reduction of services and reduction of funding,” Ray said. “So often, honestly, without a binding referendum we have to beg. … This is such an empowering thing for our community to say we need this, we want this, and we’re willing to make it happen.”

Ray joins Chicago Tonight for a conversation.

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