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Northwest Mental Health Clinic Slated to Close

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Northwest Mental Health Clinic will close next year along with five other city-run facilities across Chicago, leaving therapists worried about what will happen to their Spanish-speaking patients.

“I think this is a big loss to the community,” said Ava Navarro, clinical therapist at the Logan Square clinic. “We’ve been here a long time.”

The Latino population will especially be impacted, Navarro said.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be able to receive services in their language,” she said. “They’re going to have to travel out of the neighborhood that they feel safe in, and they will have to start fresh with a new therapist.”

Under the unanimously approved 2012 city budget, the Chicago’s 12 mental health clinics will be consolidated into six, as a part of the $7.2 million reduction in funding for the city’s Department of Public Health.

Northwest, located at 2354 N. Milwaukee Ave., is one of the few mental health clinics that caters to the Hispanic population. It will merge with the Lawndale Mental Health Center, located at 1201 S. Campbell St., in North Lawndale.

Northwest, which opened its doors in 1972, has four permanent employees, three of which are bilingual. There are 360 active clients at the facility.

“(City Officials) are breaking up a community,” said Navarro. “We have a lot of involvement with people’s families, and we interface with other agencies, so we have a lot of connections besides being some place patients come to get their medicine.”

Unfortunately, there aren’t many  mental health options in the community when Northwest closes, she said.

Navarro has been an employee of the facility since 1985, and although she would be willing to transfer to the Lawndale Mental Health Center, she says most of her patients are less than enthusiastic.

“My therapist is part of my family,” said Florencia Cano, 41, who’s been going to the clinic for eight years. “I want to stay here. I take only one bus. Any other place will probably take three or four buses.”

“We trust them so much with our lives; I don’t know what I’d do without (Northwest),” she said.

Cano sees her therapist once a week to fight her depression, and says she has seen improvement since attending therapy.

“Ninety-nine percent of the patients speak only Spanish,” Cano said. “My mom comes here, and she speaks only Spanish. If she goes to a strange neighborhood and gets lost, who will she ask for help?”

To fight the impending closures, Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), is encouraging residents to call City Council members to voice their objection.

“People need to get with their aldermen and let them know they want public health kept public,” said Ndana Carter, an organizer for STOP. “We are inviting people to call all 50 alderman and let them know that the city at large needs access to mental health facilities.”

Carter said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) recently received over 200 phone calls about the Woodlawn Mental Health Center – a clinic in his ward slated for closure.

Ald. Rey Colon (35th) could not be reached for comment about the Logan Square clinic closing, which is located in his ward.

“Our patients won’t have a place to go,” said Armando Posado, clinical therapist at Northwest Mental Health Clinic.

Posado runs the Psychosocial Rehabilitation program at Northwest, which sees 10 to 20 people every day for free meals, arts and crafts and social services.

“This is how they learn the skills to be social, talk to each other, and stay away from drugs,” said Posado.

He’s worried about losing his job and said he didn’t know what’s in store for him – or his clients.

“I’ve been telling my patients that we’re going to be closed, and we’re looking for places they can go, but the Psychosocial Rehabilitation program isn’t offered at a lot of agencies,” he said.

“I think most clients aren’t going to go to any other place, especially if the doctors don’t speak Spanish.”

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