Encompassing Center, new West Side mental health clinic, opens
November 1, 2019

Four years in the making, a mental health clinic has opened that is free to all residents of the Near West Side, North Lawndale, and East and West Garfield Park communities.

It exists thanks to property owners who voted in a 2016 referendum to increase their property taxes by $4 for every $1,000 they pay in property tax. The result is the Encompassing Center, at 3019 W. Harrison St., which promises compassionate mental health care for everyone in the community.

“Today is a day of great rejoicing,” the Rev. Patrick Marshall said during an opening prayer at the Oct. 15 ribbon cutting. He was one of nine clinic Governing Commission members and numerous others who worked toward opening the center and participated in the ceremony.

The clinic has an array of rooms, ranging from small ones for one-on-one counseling to larger ones to accommodate groups, as well as a children’s area with toys.

Commissioner Jacquelyn Ingram said the clinic will help fill the gap left when the City closed 15 of its own sites. “We had 19 public mental health centers in 1991,” Ingram noted. “Today we are down to four.”

The Encompassing Center is Chicago’s second community-created clinic. The other sits at 4141 N. Kedzie Ave. Community leaders are making plans for a third, in the Hermosa-Avondale area.

West Side residents began gathering signatures on a petition for a clinic in 2015. “We needed 2,500 signatures,” Ingram said. “We got 10,000.” In 2016, 86% of voters approved the tax increase to fund the clinic.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago has a contract to administer the clinic, whose director is Jennifer Smith. She will oversee six clinicians, four case managers, a substance abuse counselor, and an outreach specialist.

Commissioners will supervise it all. The governor appointed five commissioners, and the mayor appointed four.

Anyone who lives in the area can obtain help at the clinic. After a person has exhausted all available payment subsidies such as Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance, services are free.

Commission chairwoman Janice Oda-Gray talked about the fears people with mental illness have and how early intervention at the clinic can help them. “We know that faith and fear cannot coexist, and faith won,” Oda-Gray said.

Catholic Charities, the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers, and the North Lawndale Community Action Team led the effort to create the clinic.

For more information, phone the center at (773) 638-5703.

—Susan S. Stevens