ALBANY PARK — Voters in three Chicago wards have resoundingly backed a referendum to expand mental health care in the city, and the Albany Park alderman wants to use that momentum to revive his stalled plan to give more resources to city-run clinics.
Tuesday’s poll asked Chicagoans in the 6th, 20th, and 33rd Wards on the South and Northwest sides whether the city should reopen all closed Chicago Public Health Department mental health centers so they can support a city-wide crisis response program.
This program would also send mental health professionals and a paramedic to mental health emergency calls instead of the police.
At least 92% of voters in each ward voted yes, according to unofficial results from the Chicago Board of Elections. Referendum questions are consultative.
Aldus. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) is a strong supporter of allocating funds to city-run mental health clinics and creating a network of social workers and medical professionals to respond to crisis calls from Mental Health.
Rodriguez-Sanchez introduced his “Treatment Not Trauma” prescription two years ago, based in part on the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets program, known as CAHOOTS, which has been used in Eugene, Oregon, for more than 30 years.
The measure languished in the city council’s health and human relations committee.
Rodriguez-Sanchez said she hoped the referendum results might compel a hearing to come up with a revised version of her plan, she said.
” It is very popular. He got over 90% of the votes wherever he was put. It demonstrates the urgency and popularity of a measure like this,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
Previous efforts to convene a hearing to re-propose the order were unsuccessful, Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
“Unfortunately we have a city council where if the mayor doesn’t want something to be discussed then usually the presidents aren’t going to talk about it. So the idea of putting items like this on the ballot has to do with sending a message, right? That people want that,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
To that end, Rodriguez-Sanchez is asking Chicagoans who supported the ballot questions to contact City Hall and Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) to request a hearing on his proposal.
Sawyer, who is running for mayor, chairs the health committee. More than 98% of people who voted in his neighborhood on Tuesday supported the referendum, according to unofficial results.
“I think [Sawyer would] I love knowing that people want an audience on this,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
Former mayor Rahm Emanuel closed half of the city’s 12 mental health clinics in 2012 to address a $369 million budget shortfall.
Rodriguez-Sanchez’s order would direct more funds and staff to three of the city’s five remaining mental health centers so they could become 24-hour walk-in crisis centers, she said. declared.
Although Rodriguez-Sanchez’s proposal didn’t come off the carpet, the city last year launched the Crisis Assistance and Engagement pilot program to create a first-response mental health team involving an office plainclothes police, a paramedic and a mental health professional sent to help people in crisis.
All three teams covered Uptown, North Center and Lakeview; Auburn Gresham and Chatham; and Chicago Lawn, Gage Park, West Elsdon and West Lawn.
The city has also partnered with Harvard University and a Texas-based mental health policy institute to help expand CARE’s alternative responses to 911 calls.
Rodriguez-Sanchez said she appreciates CARE at first, but it still relies on the city’s 911 system, which she says is understaffed and can cause delays in calls from service.
“You could actually save a lot of that stress by just having mental health workers, clinicians, case managers and support workers in the spaces where a crisis is most likely to happen and even might prevent a crisis to happen,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
Voters also backed advisory questions on Tuesday asking whether the city should form mental health service areas in West Town and Humboldt Park as well as in the southeast, and whether they would support a slight property tax hike to support free and direct mental health services for any resident in need of assistance. The measures won the support of 80 to 93 percent of voters, according to election data.
The referendum questions are the latest effort by the Chicago Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Services to expand mental health services in the city. The coalition previously helped open the Kedzie Center in 2014 and has since helped open other mental health centers across the city.
“We have been working on it for months. Getting to know community residents and nonprofits in the area to make sure everyone knew what they were voting on,” said the coalition’s deputy director, Rebecca Jarcho. “To see this come to fruition and to have such overwhelming support at the polls was truly a wonderful thing to see.”
The city’s outsourcing to nonprofits over the past decade is a “band-aid” solution to a mental health crisis that the city’s clinics would be better placed to deal with if they had more municipal resources, Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
“There is a fundamental disagreement right now about government accountability,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
City-run clinics could offer higher salaries and union protections to mental health professionals and would be subject to hearings at which the city council could assess performance milestones and goals, Rodriguez said. Sanchez.
“Non-profit organizations occupy a very important place in our society. The problem is that our mental health crisis is really, really intense right now,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said. “…The turnover rates for a lot of these large nonprofits are really high. It’s really hard to tackle something as difficult as mental illness and trauma when you’re not able to have a very strong workforce that can also take care of themselves- same.
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