Beyond Police and Psychiatrists: Chicago’s Plan to Transform Community Mental Health

“From Jacobin: ‘Police violence and lack of access to essential care services have emerged as twinned hallmarks of American life. In a nation in which people with unmet mental health needs are 16 times more likely to be killed by police, about a quarter of all people killed by U.S. police since 2015 were suffering––or were perceived to be suffering––from a mental health crisis. In Chicago, a series of killings by police since former Mayor Rahm Emmanuel closed over half the City’s public mental health centers has galvanized a movement to confront this by transforming the city’s mental health and policing systems.

Born out of the occupation of the Woodlawn Mental Health Center by community organizers after Emmanuel announced its closure in 2012, the movement has coalesced around a policy demand called Treatment Not Trauma (TNT). Chicago’s new progressive mayor, Brandon Johnson, has embraced TNT as a central policy for rebuilding the City’s public health infrastructure and addressing deep-rooted abuse and corruption in the Chicago Police Department. With a TNT working group tasked with delivering recommendations to the Mayor in advance of next year’s budget proposal, the degree to which the Johnson administration is truly committed to building TNT at scale––and not just as a symbolic gesture without serious financial investment––will soon become clear.

TNT begins from the recognition that the most important part of addressing mental health and behavioral crises is to prevent them from ever arising. It therefore calls for neither a psychiatric nor police model of mental health response––both of which are dominated by reaction rather than prevention––but instead for a public health model of community mental health.’ …”

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