CHICAGO (CBS) — About four dozen people demonstrated outside Obama campaign headquarters at Prudential Plaza this morning, in an effort to get the president to put pressure on his former chief of staff, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to change his mind about closing six mental health clinics.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, the protest comes on the day four of the six clinics are expected to close. The other two have already closed.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports
“I’m going to keep on fighting, and I’m not going to give up,” said Linda Hatcher, who has been a client of the Woodlawn Mental Health Center, 6337 S. Woodlawn Ave., which is set to close.
The city plan is to consolidate services – reducing the number of clinics from 12 to six – and work with private mental health organizations.
But Hatcher doesn’t like it.
“I’m not going to give up, and I want everybody to know this – even the president, even the mayor – I’m not going to give up. I’m on fire,” Hatcher said. “I’m not a loser. I’m a winner. And I’m not going to give up.”
At the protest, leaders of the advocacy group the Mental Health Movement delivered a letter to the Obama campaign, hoping to get to Mayor Emanuel that way.
“Shame on Rahm Emanuel for possibly hurting the president’s plans for universal health care, by him denying health care to the poor and the mentally ill,” said N’Dana Carter of the Mental Health Movement.
Carter says she is also a client at the Greater Grand Mental Health Center, which is set to stay open as part of the city’s plan to consolidate services.
The plan to close and consolidate clinics would save some $3 million, according to the city.
“If these centers close… people who go to these centers describe it as being like a death sentence. So many people rely on their therapists, and closing centers means laying off a number of therapists, caseworkers, and people who get disconnected from the lifesaving treatment that they give,” Toussaint Losier of the Mental Health Movement said earlier this month.
He added that the $3 million in savings will not be realized when the fallout of closing the clinics is taken into account.
“It’s actually going to end up costing the city, the county, the folks here more money to close these clinics, because folks who rely on these services are going to end up slipping through the cracks,” Losier said on April 17.
The protesters recently spent more than a week camping out in an empty lot across from the Woodlawn facility, until police ordered them to shut down the camp. Ten of the protesters were arrested last week on potential charges of criminal trespass to city-owned land.
But some protesters said the city does not actually own the vacant lot where they were camping out.
Police used a chainsaw to cut through the barricades and hauled the demonstrators away.