By Karen Rosica
While we are all very occupied with the current political culture and its urgencies, this column hopes to help us recall that the long view still exists. The ongoing dedication and involvement of our members can remind us that we are surrounded by ongoing, deep efforts to contribute to and shape our world. I urge you to communicate with me about projects you care about at firstname.lastname@example.org. Knowing what excites you helps us all!
Nancy Burke is on the board of an organization called Expanded Mental Health Services, (EMHS-NFP). This organization, as Nancy told me, “had the privilege” of creating a psycho-dynamically-oriented clinic called The Kedzie Center in an underserved neighborhood in Chicago.
An existing mental health organization, The Coalition to Save our Mental Health Centers, was instrumental in establishing legislation in Illinois that authorized delineated areas with populations of one million or more to vote by referendum to tax themselves (at the rate of $4 additional payment/$1000 of property tax revenue) for purposes of creating a mental health center in their area to provide free services (after insurance) to those in their catchment area. These mental health centers were to serve those who had not been diagnosed with “severe mental illness,” as existing mental health centers were already mandated to treat people so described.
The first area to take advantage of the law was on the northwest side of the city, encompassing neighborhoods that have been described as the most diverse of any in an American city. A governing commission was set up to oversee the revenue from the referendum and to assess proposals to run the clinic. Nancy’s group of seven psycho-analytically-oriented clinicians at EMHS beat out many other much larger organizations for the privilege of running the clinic.
The Kedzie Center is now up and running, and its first two-year contract was just renewed by the governing commission for five years! Its goal is to offer psycho-dynamically-informed treatment to families, children, adults, veterans and other specific populations, “from the ground up,” and “for as long as it takes.” The staff of Kedzie runs groups at its physical center and in the community in schools, faith organizations and community centers. Kedzie has offered thousands of therapeutic encounters in its short life, has a full staff at this point, and is outgrowing its current location. And what’s even better, a second area of Chicago has collected enough signatures, with the help of the Coalition to Save our Mental Health Centers, to put a new initiative, this one in a troubled area on the west side of the city, on the November ballot.
Just before this printing, Nancy had great news: the second clinic that was up for a binding referendum vote on the west side, won by a landslide. She thought the tally was 86% for vs. 14% opposed. The second clinic should be up and running in a year or two at the most. EMHS is hoping that this model replicates itself all over the city and state!
The Executive Director of Kedzie is Dr. Angela Sedeno who, as Nancy describes, “deserves the lion’s share of the credit for creating a chance for so many people who wouldn’t have such services otherwise to find insightful help in a truly community-informed setting. “
For those of you who might know graduate students looking for mental health experience that includes the cultural, The Kedzie Center trains a small cohort of advanced graduate and doctoral students in psychodynamic therapy in the community with a number of opportunities for learning. Their website is here
This is so heartening in this current mental health culture we find ourselves in.
Thanks for your work and for sharing it with us, Nancy.