New mental health care center opened on West Side

The Encompassing Center will provide mental health services to East and West Garfield Park, North Lawndale and the Near West Side.

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Community organizers celebrate the grand opening of a new mental health clinic on the West Side.

Community organizers celebrate the grand opening Tuesday of a new mental health clinic on the West Side.

Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Nearly 100 organizers and residents celebrated the grand opening Tuesday of a long-awaited mental health clinic on Chicago’s West Side.

The Encompassing Center, 3019 W. Harrison St., is a 5,000-square-foot facility featuring conference rooms as well as a children’s area filled with toys and therapy rooms. The facility will exclusively serve residents of East and West Garfield Park, North Lawndale and the Near West Side.

The center was the result of a four-year effort led by The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers, and the North Lawndale Community Action Team.

“We are open to anyone who has any mental health or substance use needs and want to come in for services,” said Laura Kuever, associate vice president of child, youth and family services with Catholic Charities. “We are offering free services, but our only requirement is you have to be a resident of these four communities.”

Mental health professionals will provide individual and family therapy, substance abuse treatment and present trauma-focused community educational services, Kuever said. The Encompassing Center is expected to see at least 400 patients within the first year.

“Mental health has been a problem for a long time, but we seemed to have handled it a lot better in the past,” said Jacquelyn Ingram, a member of the North Lawndale Community Action Team. “Four communities got together under one voice and said we can all do this together and we did it.”

Ingram said they are now working to bring a community-led mental health clinic that will serve the Avondale and Hermosa neighborhoods.

Madalynn Crenshaw, 57, of the Near West Side, said she hopes the clinic’s opening can change the stigma around seeking mental health treatment in her neighborhood.

“Jails are filled with people who need treatment for mental health issues and that’s why this place opening is so important,” Crenshaw said. “We need these centers in order to reduce crime, help with our homeless population and there aren’t any other treatment centers near us.”

Crenshaw said a close friend has had to deal with mental health problems without having access to treatment.

“She was this amazing person, and she still is, but she’s had to battle with drug abuse and homelessness herself,” Crenshaw said. “I just wish she had a place like this so she didn’t have to seemingly fight it alone.”

In 2012, public mental health clinics within the city limits were reduced from 12 to six. Only five remain publicly operated today.

Earlier this year a City Council committee approved the Public Mental Health Clinic Service Expansion Task Force that will examine the re-opening of some of those clinics.

Those seeking more information about services at The Encompassing Center are asked to call (773) 638-5703.

Manny Ramos is a corps member ofReport for America,a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.

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