Today, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced the reopening of the Roseland Mental Health Clinic on the far South Side by the end of 2024. The city will also expand clinical services citywide. The Johnson administration will partner with the Chicago Public Library to offer mental health services at Legler Regional Library in West Garfield Park and add services at a city-run clinic in Pilsen.

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) will operate the clinic, located at 200 E. 115th Street.

“This mental health system expansion has been a long time coming, and yet there were many who thought that it wasn’t possible. And many who thought it shouldn’t be a priority,” Johnson said during today’s press conference. “But it is a priority.”

“Addressing our residents’ mental health needs and improving our response to mental health crises is critical for the future of our city and for all of our people,” he added.

The Roseland mental health clinic is one of 14 that have closed since 1989. In 1989, the city had 19 mental health clinics. By 2011, only five remained. In 2011, the Chicago City Council voted 50-0 to approve former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first budget, which included closing half the city’s public mental health clinics. Four of the clinics were located on the South Side.

For 13 years, Diane Adams, a longtime South Side resident and mental health advocate, has been fighting to reopen closed mental health clinics. She knows firsthand how crucial public mental health clinics are after the loss of her son in 1996. 

“Following his death, I was in a deep depression. In ‘98 I tried to commit suicide, and in 2005, I was in a coma for four months. It took years for me to begin to heal. I was able to get the support I needed,” Adams said. “My therapist gave me my self-esteem and confidence back. Through hard work and care, I was able to get my life back. I know that quality mental healthcare is life-changing and life-saving.”

CDPH Commissioner Dr. Olusimbo Ige, Alds. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd Ward), Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th Ward), Walter Burnett (27th Ward), Ronnie Mosley (21st Ward), mental health advocates, and community organizers joined Johnson.

“The folks in the margins are now in the center. The communities that were not a priority are now a priority. Roseland is a priority. Pilsen is a priority. West Garfield [Park] is a priority. Being brown or Black in the city of Chicago is not a reason for people to be deprived of the services that they need,” Ige said.

Today’s announcement builds on more than a decade of organizing efforts led by community organizers, residents, and elected leaders to reopen shuttered city-owned mental health clinics and on Johnson’s campaign promise to implement Treatment Not Trauma, which calls for establishing 24-hour mental-health crisis response teams within the city’s public health department and deploying them citywide.

Ronald “Kowboy” Jackson is another organizer who has long fought to keep mental health clinics open. In 2016 for example, Emanuel pushed to close and privatize the Roseland clinic. Jackson chained himself to the clinic’s doors in protest of its privatization and closure.

Mental health activist, Ronald “Kowboy” Jackson, at the reopening of Roseland Mental Health Center on the South Side of Chicago on May 30, 2024. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE®
Mental health activist, Ronald “Kowboy” Jackson. Jackson was one of many mental health advocates at Mayor Brandon Johnson's presser where he announced the reopening of the Roseland Mental Health Center on the South Side of Chicago on May 30, 2024. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE®

“We’ve got too many people out there suffering,” Jackson said. “We need people who will stand up with us and for us and, most of all, be the voices that say we’re not shutting down anything. We’re opening it up.”

Rodriguez-Sanchez introduced the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance to the Chicago City Council in 2020.

“I stand here today proud and moved to see our vision of Treatment Not Trauma grow into a thoughtful and detailed plan to deliver public life-saving health care to communities across Chicago. I continue to be inspired by the hard work, courage, and leadership of community organizers and advocates for helping us all imagine a world where we can truly care for everyone,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.

Last October, the City Council approved the Mental Health System Expansion Working Group (MHSE) to develop a framework to implement Treatment Not Trauma. The initiative was also incorporated into the 2024 budget, including reopening two mental health clinics and allocating $15.9 million to double the staff of the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Care 911 alternative response program, which began under former mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2021.

The MHSE working group released a report with 40 recommendations, including reopening the Roseland mental health clinic, to expand mental health clinical services, develop alternative responses to mental health crises and raise awareness about mental health resources citywide. The report can be found here.

During today’s press conference, Johnson announced that CDPH will staff the city’s care teams starting this year, while Chicago police officers and firefighters will be phased out.

“Mental health crises deserve trauma-informed responses, and our police officers and firefighters deserve to focus on holding criminals accountable and putting out fires, not responding to mental health crises,” Johnson said. “This is simply the right and smart thing to do.”

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.