LOGAN SQUARE — A years-long effort to open a community-funded mental health clinic on the Northwest Side is taking shape.
A commission overseeing the creation of the clinic is accepting bids for a health provider to run the free facility, which will be funded through a property tax increase approved in the 2018 municipal election. Proposals are due May 17.
If everything goes according to plan, the clinic will open in Logan Square, Avondale or Hermosa later this year, commissioners said. More details will be released in late summer after a provider is selected, they said.
Neighbors began pushing for the community-funded facility in 2018 after Logan Square’s city-run mental health clinic was shut down in 2012, along with 11 other clinics.
But commissioners said the effort has taken on a new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic, which has also created a mental health crisis.
“We all, as a commission, really feel the urgency of this,” commissioner Andrew Brake said. “We got into this because we care about our community and the wellbeing of our neighbors.”
When the city closed Logan Square’s clinic at 2354 N. Milwaukee Ave., it sparked protests and a City Hall hearing. The shutdown became a symbol of gentrification after the clinic was replaced with trendy restaurants and bars, first by a gourmet mac and cheese restaurant and then a 4 a.m. bar.
The effort to launch a community-funded clinic started with a group of neighborhood volunteers gathering thousands of signatures under the guidance of the Chicago Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Services. That helped place a binding referendum to open the clinic on the 2018 municipal ballot.
An overwhelming majority of voters in Logan Square, Avondale and Hermosa voted to open the clinic — and raise their property taxes to pay for it.
The 0.025 percent tax increase amounts to about $16-24 per year for most households, and about $4 for every $1,000 homeowners pay in property taxes, according to the Chicago Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Services.
Since the election, a nine-member commission of local residents has been appointed — five by the governor, four by the mayor — to oversee the creation of the clinic. The process took longer than anticipated because Illinois had just elected a new governor, commissioner John Parizek said.
The pandemic has slowed the project somewhat, commissioners said, but the group was able to meet virtually to create bylaws and file paperwork ensuring money generated through the property tax increase is routed toward opening the clinic.
Commissioners spent about five months crafting their request for proposals, which they launched Jan. 12. The 39-page document is a comprehensive overview of what they expect from a provider — including a commitment to anti-racism and fighting other forms of bigotry — and what that provider can expect in the partnership.
“We recognize the racial injustice and we were very deliberate in building that into the RFP,” commissioner Sendy Soto said. “We made some very distinct changes that really highlight the importance of racial justice and anti-discrimination framework, really talking about the needs of the immigrant community and the fears they’ve encountered — politically, systemically.
“We want the provider to have a deep understanding of the populations that have been marginalized and harmed throughout the last couple of years — but historically, too.”
When the Northwest Side clinic opens, it will be the third community-funded clinic in the city.
The efforts have all been coordinated by the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers, formed in 1991 in response to the closure of the city’s mental health clinics that started under Mayor Richard M. Daley and continued under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The organization fought for the passage of a 2011 state law that allows communities to open a mental health clinic so long as they initiate, fund and approve the project, according to the Chicago Community Trust.
With the community-funded mental health clinic on the Northwest Side, the commissioners hope to bring accessible mental health services to residents who have been without a free clinic for almost a decade.
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