With Mayor Brandon Johnson vowing to reopen the city’s shuttered mental health clinics, some advocates are looking at the administration to reinvigorate and reimagine the city’s approach to providing mental health services.
Johnson will have to decide whether to continue operating former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s city mental health infrastructure, the Trauma-Informed Centers of Care network, which consists of mental health providers from community nonprofit organizations, federally qualified health centers and the five remaining city-run mental health clinics.
“The previous administration really set up a house of cards,” said Arturo Carrillo, director of health and violence prevention at Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and co-lead of the Collaborative for Community Wellness.
Carrillo said that on top of people experiencing long waitlists for mental health services and gaps in coverage, there is also a lack of accountability with the quality of mental health services being offered by providers who are funded by the city.
A Chicago Department of Public Health spokesperson said in a statement: “The new administration has been in office for just one day but we look forward to meeting with them soon to talk about this vitally important issue and how to make high quality, no barrier mental health care accessible to as many people as possible.”
This year’s city budget includes $89 million for providing mental health care.
Eric Reinhart, political anthropologist of public health and law, physician and psychoanalyst at Northwestern University, said the privatization of the health care infrastructure has led to “horrific” outcomes, which calls for public health infrastructure to be rebuilt.
“We rely upon this network of nonprofit, primarily community-based, organizations that do great work in the absence of public systems, but should not be a replacement for public systems,” Reinhart said.