Northwest Side neighborhoods open state’s first community-funded mental health clinic

By Sara Freund

Kedzie Center Executive Director, Dr. Angela Sedeño, and Program Development Coordinator, Matthew Hiller discuss a map of neighborhoods that the Kedzie Center will serve.  Photo by Sara Freund.
Kedzie Center Executive Director Dr. Angela Sedeño and Program Development Coordinator Matthew Hiller review the neighborhoods that the Kedzie Center will serve. Photo by Sara Freund/MEDILL.

Illinois’ first community-funded public mental health center, the Kedzie Center, will open next Wednesday at 4137 N Kedzie Ave. The center plans to provide a variety of outpatient therapies to residents in Albany Park, Irving Park, North Park and part of Forest Glen, funded by tax revenues approved by a neighborhood referendum.

Service will be provided on a case-by-case basis when community residents cannot afford to pay for care.

The public is invited to the open house of the center to tour the new facility, get more information about the services and meet the staff at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday.

The Kedzie Center is on a mission to heal, support and inform their local community. They will offer clinical services such as individual therapy for children, families, and adults in addition to group therapy, psychiatric counseling and bilingual services.

“We also really want to have a component focusing on community support—anything we can do to help educate the public about mental health issues. We intend to support the community in everything from dealing with everyday stressors and violence prevention to school-based work,” said Dr. Angela Sedeño, executive director of the Kedzie Center.

The Kedzie Center plans to be a resource for local organizations, religious leaders, and schools in the area to guide and educate them about mental health, Sedeño said.

“We were talking to a pastor and he just made a point that some people who come into his congregation have mental illness. There is a real social network there to support that person but stuff comes up that they don’t know how to deal with it. The thought was, if a resource was there or someone we could consult with, then we could build on what’s already existing and make it better,” said Matthew Hiller, a licensed social worker and program development coordinator at the Kedzie Center.

The Kedzie Center results from nearly 10 years of community outreach, education and new state legislation. First in 2004 and again in 2008, residents approved advisory referenda that asked if people would be willing to raise their own property taxes to support local public mental health services.

In 2012 the referendum became binding, a change made through state legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. About 74 percent of residents approved the referendum this time and raised resident’s property taxes by .004 percent, an average of $16 per year for a $210,000 home, to support the local mental health services.

Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed a governing commission of nine area residents in North River, a consortium of all the neighborhoods covered by the center. The commission reviewed several proposals for the allocated funds.

“The Kedzie Center submitted the finest proposal I’ve ever seen. It was a commitment from the ground up for a program that was very different and focused on the needs of this community,” said Joyce Zick, president of the Governing Commission and licensed social worker on the Northwest side.

The proposal included an extensive three-part community needs assessment that Hiller coordinated. The assessment involved door-to-door surveys, meetings with local religious leaders and social services, and a health geographer to help identify risk factors in the community.

“Albany Park is a very young community, and a very diverse community so that has its own sets of challenges. If you go north, based on the needs assessment, there is more depression and social isolation in older adults,” Hiller said.

The information from the assessment allowed the Kedzie Center to focus on specific needs, such as bilingual services for Albany Park’s large Latino population.

Mental health care became even more serious in Chicago when the city shut down six of the city’s 12 remaining mental health clinics. At these clinics in Chicago, mostly on the South Side, only severely mentally ill patients can receive treatment. This prevents children, families, and seniors from getting help at the first sign trouble.

“When I campaigned for this, everyone I talked to called this a ‘no brainer’. They said of course we’ll vote for this, our community needs it,” said Diana Bryant, on the Board of Directors for the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Clinics.

Bryant personally knows how vital it is for a community to receive mental health treatment.

“If this had existed in my neighborhood as a kid, I would not have suffered like I did. There would have been a place for me to talk,” Bryant said.

In the wake of city cutbacks and clinic closures, the North River community has “taken a huge first step in rebuilding Chicago’s mental health care,” said Michael Snedeker, executive director of Coalition to Save Our Mental Health.