The West Side Community Mental Health Center
by Mary McGinnis
Sunday, May 14, 2017
As spring breathes new life into Chicago, with beautiful flowers and trees in bloom, spring also brings renewed hope and good news. Dedicated and determined members of Old St. Patrick’s, St. Agatha, St. Malachy-Precious Blood parishes and others from the UIC-Taylor neighborhood have worked tirelessly over the winter months to gather input about needed mental health services. As a result of a successful petition drive and November ballot initiative, planning for a new community-supported West Side Community Mental Health Center is underway. This group of volunteers is beginning to see evidence of their hard work as the programmatic goals of the mental health center begin to take shape.
As part of this effort, coalition members have reached out to dozens of faith-based and community-based organizations to learn more about the unmet needs of West Side community members. These organizations serve residents of the West Side in need of safe neighborhoods, safe housing, mental health and substance use counseling and other family-centric services. At a time when there is great uncertainty about the state’s budget allocations and changing health care scenarios from a national perspective, a vision for a community-funded, community-governed mental health center is being built on the West Side.
The work is an all-volunteer effort and represents a group of dedicated souls working hard to make a difference in the lives of fellow community members. Personally, the work has been especially gratifying. I’ve had the opportunity to visit with community leaders and learn about their mission-driven organizations, be amazed by their dedication and service to others. The insight from these conversations is thoughtful, inspiring and heartfelt and will contribute to our knowledge to create the services that meet the mental health needs of those in our community.
One of the unique aspects of this community-driven model is that it highlights the vision that community-led efforts make it easier for persons to recognize the need to seek help because there is accessible help. This approach reinforces healing and recovery as the essence of building strong relationships in community.
We are entering a new phase of our project and planning to visit with community members of the North Lawndale, East and West Garfield Park and Near West Side that will be accessing these mental health services in the future.
If you are interested in volunteering to strengthen these efforts, contact Rachel Lyons at Rachel@oldstpats.org.