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Invest In Mental Health Facilities On South Side, Brighton Park Neighbors Demand

During a community meeting, local politicians listened to testimony on a variety of issues and answered questions posed by the community group.

Ald. Jorge Cardenas (12th) left, State Rep. Celina Villanueva, center, and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia listen as members of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council share testimony on different issues facing their neighborhood.
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
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BRIGHTON PARK — Residents called for public officials to reinvest in mental health facilities on the city’s Southwest Side during a community meeting at Shields Middle School in Brighton Park last week.

Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and community members urged Ald. Jorge Cardenas (12th), Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and State Rep. Celina Villanueva to address the lack of mental health services on the South Side in a Wednesday meeting.

Ogden International student Natalie Alcantara talked about the hardship of dealing with mental health issues and not having accessible services in the neighborhood.

“I found it inconvenient to drive all the way Downtown from my house on therapy days,” Alcantara said.

“I would have to miss school in order to make my therapy session. I would have found it more convenient if I went to a mental care [facility] near my house, which makes me say there is a necessity to open mental care facilities on the South Side of Chicago.”

Dr. Arturo Carrillo, director of Saint Anthony Hospital’s Mental Health and Family Support Program, presented results from a 3,000-person survey that highlighted disparities in access to mental health clinicians on the North and South sides of Chicago.

Among the survey findings, Carrillo said structural barriers like costs, lack of insurance or services not available were among the reasons why families on the South and West sides do not seek out mental health services.

Carrillo said 63 mental health clinicians were available in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, compared with 381 mental health clinicians on the Gold Coast.

“A rate of .17 clinicians per 1000 residents in the Southwest Side compared with 4.45 clinicians in the North Side,” Carrillo said.

“Eighty percent of respondents said they would seek out services if they were available,” Carrillo added.

Villanueva lauded Alcantara for sharing her sensitive story regarding her mental health struggles.

“I, like you, was that young woman on the Southwest Side who was dealing with mental health issues,” Villanueva said.

The state representative said she would commit to meeting with residents and community leaders from the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, as well as elected officials on how to deal with a lack of mental health for South Side communities.

Cardenas said he, along with other aldermen, was looking at ways to reintroduce legislation to bring back mental health services.

“We’ve been working …for a year and a half reconstituting what happened in 2011,” Cardenas said.  “The new data shows we missed the mark on a big portion of the population when it came to mental health services.”

Cardenas suggested TIF dollars could be used to put money back into “services like mental health, community investment, job creation, job training, and education.”

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