City health budget could be slashed by $6.4 million

  • By Alex Parker
  • Staff Writer
  • August 25, 2009 @ 6:00 AM

The Chicago Department of Public Health’s budget is going to be even smaller than it was last month when plans to close at least four mental health centers were announced, says Commissioner Terry Mason.

A drop in state funds and the need to cut $6.4 million out of its city budget mean Mason will have to manage with significantly less money.

“I feel like I’m in the school of make do,” Mason told members of the Community Mental Health Board of Chicago yesterday morning.

Mason said CDPH received a letter from the state last week, noting it would receive just $4.2 million in mental health dollars for the current fiscal year, 2010. In 2008, the state provided $8.5 million for mental health services. In 2007, it gave $7.2 million.

Just what that means for mental health services is unclear at this point. Mason said department leaders will meet later this week to discuss the future of the mental health centers, which escaped closure in the spring but are close to being shut down again.

In July, Mason warned that CDPH would have to reduce services in a number of areas if a state budget short on social service dollars was adopted.

But mental health advocates will have their chance to lobby the city for more money this week. Budget hearings begin tonight.

Mason also told board members that mental health workers are still having some complications with CDPH’s electronic billing system, which cost the city more than $1 million last year. Clinicians have been taken off case work to input or correct patient data into the computer system, both patients and clinic workers say, though Mason said he was unaware of that.

Mental health services in Chicago and nationwide are in trouble, Mason said. But he said the city is trying to stay committed to helping those who need services.

“The mayor’s office, (and) everyone else knows the mental health situation,” he said.

More on budget hearings

Officials will hear public testimony regarding the city’s 2010 budget beginning tonight. Speaker registration begins at 6 p.m. The hearing starts at 7. The schedule follows:

Aug. 25, 7 p.m.

South Shore Cultural Center

7059 S. South Shore Drive.

Aug. 26, 7 p.m.

Central West Regional Center

2102 W. Ogden

Aug. 27, 7 p.m.

Falconer Elementary School

3020 N. Lamon


Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.