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Chicago Peace Hubs Planned by Sheriff, Gamaliel Metro Chicago and Allies

Posted by: Gordon on 7/22/2014
Meeting with sheriff Tom Dart in Chicago July 21
Fro many, jail is one of the few places where they can access mental health services in Cook County according to Sheriff Tom Dart, Gamaliel Metro Chicago, Southwest Organizing Project, and Community Renewal Society

When 1,000 people gathered Monday night to ask Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to help them create a new system to deliver mental health care to youth, undocumented immigrants, formerly incarcerated people and other Southwest Side residents he had a simple answer: "I cannot support your plans strongly enough."

"I truly don’t know which system is more broken our immigration system or our criminal justice system," Dart told leaders of Gamaliel of Metro Chicago, the Southwest Organizing Project, and Community Renewal Society. "The way we treat people with mental illness is an embarrassment--there rae no plans for people with mental illness other than what the sheriff provides. And frankly I’m not supposed to be doing that. I’m just supposed to lock peole up, apparently."

To a standing ovation, Dart and leaders from the three organizations agreed to a vision to plan for peace hubs, centers that would connect Southwest Side residents to services, counseling and even education and job training programs. The hubs are an ambitious vision to provide all of those forms of support. Public funding is needed to create the hubs.

The proposal is to use the Affordable Care Act and reallocate city and state funds to provide mental health support services to initially 75 persons by creating community-based mental health centers, or hubs, to serve as diversion and re-entry alternatives to incarceration. The Hubs will also offer comprehensive restorative justice and prevention as a means of reducing violence and creating new life directions for hundred of other struggling youth and young adults on the south and southwest side of Chicago.

Dart is actually a national leader in the area of providing mental health care inside the jail. His office estimates that on any given day, at least 30 percent of the inmates at Cook County Jail--some 3,000 people--suffer from mental illness. Many are there for committing minor crimes, Dart says.

“The funds that should be used to provide community treatment and youth support services are now tied up incarcerating nonviolent persons who suffer from mental health and addiction,” said Dr. Alvin Love of the Gamaliel African American Organizing Table. “We can eliminate violence and provide a just and compassionate alternative if our communities are allowed to care for our own.”

This was the first public meeting organized by the Parish Peace Project, a joint Initiative of GMC, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, and local community organizations including the Southwest Organizing Project, to develop Latino young adult leadership in the church and address the violence that plagues Chicago.

Next week the Project in conjunction with partner Community Renewal Society will meet with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to ask her to sign on to the vision of peace hubs.
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