How would your administration approach the need to both increase access to mental health services among Latino residents and address the shortage of linguistically and culturally competent mental health care professionals?

Healthcare

At the beginning of this administration we inherited a mental health system that had been losing funding and patients for years. By 2012, our mental health system was on a path to failure, having lost 90% of external funding and more than one-third of its patients. We worked with leaders in the field to expand services through targeted investments in new services for children and substance abusers and new partnerships with the federal government and nonprofit organizations. And for the first time, we started providing psychiatric care at multiple locations. Today, the city’s mental health system – whether run by the City, State, federal government, or nonprofit organization – receives as many visits as it did prior to reform, while offering more diverse services at more locations, including locations in Latino neighborhoods. My administration will continue to look additional partners, particularly those who are best able to serve the diversity of residents in Chicago.

The closing of Mental Health Clinics has affected many communities. I would immediately reopen the Mental Health Clinics and encourage the recruitment of linguistically and culturally competent mental health care professionals through colleges and universities throughout the nation. As mayor, I will work with the many universities in the city as well as the community college system to develop a pipeline of linguistically and culturally competent mental health care professionals. Developing such a pipeline requires intention. We cannot take a wait-and-see approach. I will make it a point to work with the administrators of these institutions of higher education to develop a specific program that will encourage linguistically and culturally competent individuals to enter the mental health profession and then match them up with mental health institutions (and traditional health institutions) where they can contribute to the competency and diversity of the staff, thus increasing the quality of care for the Latino population.

Mental and behavioral health services are critically needed in our community. The stigma often associated with these important services must be combatted. I believe behavioral health services are best provided as part of comprehensive community health services. Behavioral health, oral health and other health services must be expanded within our safety net institutions.

I would support an open admissions policy at CDPH mental health facilities. Our primary responsibility is to pro- vide all residents the mental health services necessary to ensure a stable quality of life. We can utilize funding from Federal and State sources to expand the level and amount of services to those in need of long-term care services and support in their home. The City of Chicago has an absolute responsibility to make residents, their family and members of their support structures aware of their options relating to mental health service. Thus, I would support an educational effort to increase public awareness concerning the importance of seeking mental health services. As mayor, I would agree to run Public Service Announcements (PSAs) targeting the communities surrounding the existing six clinics. However, such a campaign would not be limited to residents of those specific areas. The PSAs would be produced in Spanish and English.

I would reopen the all of the city’s mental health clinics! It is imperative we provide mental health care to those in need. We are doing a great injustice to our own residents by downplaying the significance of mental illness and the impact on our society. It should be required that clinics have technicians or staff that are bi-lingual and able to communicate with patients.