Newly inaugurated Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said Monday that ensuring access to mental healthcare will be a key priority for his administration. [Health News Illinois]
“I want to make sure that no one ever has to suffer because they do not have access to mental health services,” Johnson said during his inauguration speech at the University of Illinois Chicago’s Credit Union 1 Arena. “And people have told us for too long, ‘It's a matter of life and death.’ So let's bring together the private sector, the public sector, the county, the state and the federal government to find the best solutions for delivering these services.”
As part of that push, Johnson reiterated a plan to reopen the city’s mental health clinics that were closed in 2012 by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
That comes as Johnson plans to, at least initially, keep on the current city health leadership.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told WGN Radio last week that she and Johnson recently met and that she will be staying in her role for the foreseeable future.
“I’m excited to work with the new administration,” Arwady said. “Public health is our primary focus — it’s not the political piece. But, of course, it’s important we can work with whoever the political leaders are.”
Arwady, as well as Johnson's predecessor, Lori Lightfoot, have focused mental health efforts on supporting community mental health organizations working in the city's 77 neighborhoods.
Johnson also said Monday Chicago must address the rise in immigrants coming to the city and meet their health and social needs. He did not go into specifics, but said Chicago is a welcoming city.
“We don’t want the story to be told that we were unable to house the unhoused or provide safe harbor for those who are seeking refuge here, because there is enough room for everyone in the city of Chicago,” Johnson said.