City officials met with a coalition of mental health advocates last night at City Hall in an 11th hour meeting to discuss the fate of four mental health centers slated to close.
Confident following news the city was holding off on the plan, advocates and patients attending the three-hour meeting left confused, frustrated and uncertain, as city officials told them that more analysis was needed.
“At this point, they are supposed to get back to us,” says Darryl Gumm, chairman of the Community Mental Health Board. He says officials gave no indication when they might make a final decision.
The South Side centers were supposed to have stopped business by the end of the day yesterday, but Mayor Richard M. Daley said the city was reexamining the plans. That move came after a Daily News article revealed problems with a city billing system resulted in a $1.2 million shortage and the decision to close the clinics. City officials had previously put most of the blame for the closings on state budget cutbacks.
Yesterday, Daley said the city was investigating the billing issue.
“We are looking into that. We take this seriously. We’re putting it on hold to find out some of the issues there,” he said.
On Monday, following a boisterous protest outside the mayor’s office, Paul Volpe, the mayor’s chief of staff, promised advocates a Tuesday night meeting with him and Terry Mason, commissioner of the public health department.
The group submitted a five-point list of demands and proposals to keep the centers running. While advocates were pleased officials, including Director of Intergovernmental Affairs John Dunn, chose to meet with them, they hoped for a more solid outcome.
“These are the people who can make it happen. If the want to make it happen, it will happen. If they don’t make it happen, these people will die,” Gumm says.
The four clinics scheduled to close are Woodlawn, Back-of-the-Yards, Greater Grand/Mid-South and Beverly-Morgan Park.
City officials were unavailable to comment.
And while it appears the plan to close the centers is in limbo, Bedonna Rheingold, a board member at the Woodlawn clinic, says that clinic may close Friday. An HIV/AIDS facility is being prepared to take its place.
Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.