Pointing to kids whose mental health hangs in the balance, workers at Roseland Community Hospital on Friday urged hospital executives to scrap plans to suspend service at its adolescent behavioral health unit as they revamp the program.
Tremaine White, a mental health counselor, said the suffering of mostly Black kids on the South Side who end up at the unit during perhaps the lowest points of their lives will inevitably be prolonged because of the suspension. There’s a lack of similar services offered in the area, White said.
When grandparents raising their grandkids are the end of their rope, “we are their last hope” to address behavioral issues and keep the family together, White said during a virtual news conference.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which helped organize the news conference, represents workers at the behavioral health unit of the hospital, 45 W. 111th St. The union is an investor in the Sun-Times.
“I see the grandmothers every day coming in looking for support, whether that be inpatient or outpatient,” said Christel Williams, an intake coordinator.
Roseland, a nonprofit safety-net hospital on Chicago’s Far South Side, gave 30-day notice of the planned service suspension on Jan. 4, according to SEIU coordinator Dulce Leyva.
The hospital plans to transform the facility “to create a better program for treating and healing the minds and bodies of challenged teenagers” according to a Roseland statement. Depending on the approval of grant money, it could reopen as soon as July 1.
“As soon as the grant application is open and the new program funded, we will create an evidence-based healing center for adolescents and families struggling with mental health issues, eating disorders, and substance abuse,” the hospital said in a statement.
Hospital CEO Tim Egan was not available for comment.
With no concrete plans to reopen, and between 20 and 25 workers from the unit being laid off, Leyva said the move “was more of a closure than a suspension.”
The majority of kids who end up in their care are referred by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, she said.
“We’ve had calls for patients we’ve had to turn away,” Williams said. “The majority of calls come overnight, that’s when a lot of kids experience the most trauma.”
No patients are being accepted at the moment and only one, a DCFS referral, is currently at the facility, workers said.
Bishop Charles A. Mickens, of Lights of Zion Ministries, said the suspension could mean life or death for some kids.
“Adolescents who don’t get the mental healthcare they need become adults with even greater needs and with greatly reduced outcomes in nearly every area of their lives,” he said. “To close the unit and deny them would be immoral in the best of times. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s unconscionable.”
The transformation plan has yet to be submitted to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which regulates state hospitals and would need to approve the measure, a spokeswoman for the board said Friday.