In March, Anthony Hill, an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan, was shot and killed by a police officer in suburban Atlanta. Neighbors called police when an unarmed Hill was seen wandering around his apartment complex naked. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Hill’s death is one example of a recent deadly encounter between police and people living with mental illness. Shootings in Dallas and Milwaukee also have made national news and sparked calls for better police training.
When residents of some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods need mental health treatment, they often seek help from social service and community organizations in their neighborhoods — help that can be hard to find.
What more can we do to ensure that the majority of ninth-graders in Chicago graduate from college prepared to fully engage with the global economy? First, we must recognize that our children’s academic success is inextricably linked with their social, emotional and physical well-being
Two years after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel shut down half of the city’s mental health clinics, the Mental Health Movement is charging that the city “is sabotaging its remaining services by refusing to serve people getting health benefits through the Affordable Care Act.” Tens of thousands of Chicagoans signed up for CountyCare, Cook County’s early rollout of ACA’s Medicaid expansion, but the city chose not to join the CountyCare network. A health department spokesman told the Tribune last month that current clients who enroll in Medicaid will be able to keep seeing their therapists. But a clinic staff member told me recently he’d been instructed not to accept CountyCare enrollees as new patients and to transfer patients who joined CountyCare to private providers. “The city is pushing people out and they’re not following up to see if they are getting care,” said N’Dana Carter of the MHM.
Calls to the state’s mental health crisis hotline for children have soared in recent years, an increase fueled largely by schools that are seeing more children who exhibit signs of severe mental health problems. Experts point to cuts in community mental health services and more children experiencing the after-effects of violence and trauma as factors prompting more hotline calls from schools. “We know the number of children exposed to violence has increased and that can take its toll,” says one expert.
How teachers handle the fallout of violence responsibly and empathetically in their classrooms–from acknowledging the loss to creating a safe environment where kids can not only learn, but find comfort and begin to heal–is not something that is taught in pre-service programs.
On the surface, the two stories are unrelated: the appalling upsurge in shootings and homicides in Chicago this year and the Chicago Teachers Union’s announcement of plans for a strike authorization vote. But look closer—there’s a connection. Union leaders want the district to negotiate on a host of issues, among them the lack of social workers and other mental health clinicians in schools. It’s a need that’s become more critical given this year’s upsurge in violence.