Outrage continues over mental health clinic closures
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
“You say you don’t have money, but you have money for everything else,” said protester Harold Coleman, of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to close six mental health clinics to save the city nearly $3 million.
About 35 people have been arrested in the past few weeks following this decision, yet protesters have continued to protest, pray, and demand more mental health services in Chicago.
The closing of mental health clinics are going to “result in a lot of problems,” said Coleman, who has been demonstrating throughout the night across from the Woodlawn Mental Health Center and is among those fighting for the clinics to remain open.
Coleman said that these services are essential and people who struggle with mental health issues don’t always remember or understand the reality of their actions.
“They may do something that they regret for the rest of their life and when you try to explain it to them they don’t understand it, particularly without the support of their therapist,” he said.
“Mental illness is something that is non-discriminatory, it effects everyone,” said Ruth Maciulis, a DePaul student who has received services in the past and who came out to the Woodlawn Clinic demonstrations last week after hearing about it from the organization S.T.O.P., (Southside Together Organized for Power.)
Maciulis has been out several times to support the efforts, attended press conferences at the site and recalled one of the recent prayer services as “really beautiful.”
“Without these centers, people have to travel far distances to get their medication or get care,” she said.
A Sun-Times report quoted Emanuel having said, “At the two clinics that have now been closed, we gave each of the patients a CTA card ... so they could get to the new place and start that transition easier. … One of the concerns I heard from the patients was, `We’re gonna be going to a new place.’ So we made changes. We’re giving them a CTA card for the first month so the inconvenience … was least disruptive to them.”
Coleman said once someone gets a therapist, “you understand that therapist.” He described patients building trust with their therapists and receiving the necessary support to regularly take their medication. “Once you take that therapist from them, they can’t trust nobody else,” he said.
Coleman also recalled his arrest earlier in April among 22 others who were arrested for barricading themselves inside the clinic. “They put handcuffs on me so tight they swole my hands … they piled us into the van like sardines,” he said.
Coleman said he was given a $250,000 bond based partially off a past criminal trespassing charge that he said he didn’t even know he had. Coleman said criminal trespassing is normally a $100 bond and spent nine days in jail. Coleman suffers from schizophrenia, asthma, and a heart condition, “They wouldn’t even give me my medication,” he said.
A judge eventually dismissed Coleman’s charges but ordered him not to return to the clinic. Failure to comply could result in facing five years in jail. “That did not scare me because see I’m out here for a reason,” Coleman said, describing his son who is also in need of mental health services. “I thought it was my duty to help keep the clinic open,” he said.
Coleman, Maciulis, and reports by several Chicago media sources like the Chicago Maroon reported that a local Pastor holds jurisdiction of the lot across from the Woodlawn clinic and has given demonstrators permission to be on the property. Police say the property is owned by the city and so the arrests continue.
Maciulis said she feels some of the police are actually “sympathetic.” When it comes to making the arrests and holding people in jail, “They don’t want to do it, they know it’s a waste of their time,” she said. “But it’s their job … it’s like they’re soldiers and they have a job to do and there’s such a structure of repercussions if they were to have any sort of dissent.”
Coleman said Emanuel should “retire” and is “not looking out for the people he is supposed to be serving.”
“Yeah we’re poor people true enough but we have rights too,” said Coleman. “We are going to stand up for our rights … we aren’t going to stop until we get justice.”