LOGAN SQUARE After years in the works, the neighborhood-funded Logan Square Mental Health Center is almost ready to open.
LoSAH Center of Hope at 3557 W. Armitage Ave., which has been in the works since 2018, is scheduled to open in late January, officials said during a recent storefront tour. Construction is underway, interior walls are getting a fresh coat of gold paint, and next up is the installation of floors, doors and appliances.
LoSAH, which stands for Logan Square, Avondale and Hermosa, will offer bilingual, affordable mental health services to residents in the three neighborhoods, regardless of insurance. In Spanish it will be known as Centro de Esperanza.
The center will provide a full range of services, including individual therapy, couples and family therapy, group therapy, psychiatry and case management with a focus on early intervention and prevention, leaders said.
“This center is something that we need and we don’t really have this type of resource,” said Veronica Perez, director of operations and Hermosa resident. “This center will alleviate the many gaps this community has suffered.”
The center will have a community and conference room for events and public meetings, an art therapy and meditation room, an outdoor sensory garden and nine therapist offices, said Angela Sedeo, executive director and CEO of Expanded Mental Health Services of Chicago, the provider. for the center.
Free workshops and community resources such as mental health first aid, art therapy classes and more will be offered to the public in the community room, which will be decorated with art, bright colors and possibly a mural, leaders said.
The facility is being funded through a property tax increase approved in 2018. Tax funds will initially cover 100 percent of the clinics’ costs, and additional revenue over time will help the center expand and provide more programs, Sedeo said.
“Public clinics are designed for people with severe mental illness, but they are not designed for ordinary people who have everyday problems,” Sedeo said. “I think we’ve all learned that managing the mental health system is difficult, and even that is a service we can provide: just helping people understand where you can go, how do you choose a therapist, how do you know when your child needs therapy?”
Center leaders are hiring clinicians and other staff who are being trained at the Kedzie Center in Irving Park, the city’s first community-funded mental health clinic run by the same provider, Sedeo said.
LoSAH will start with five therapists and hopes to grow to eight by spring, Sedeo said.
Officials anticipate serving more than 400 clients and caregivers each year when the center is fully staffed and operational, they said. The center will also serve another 2,400 neighbors through community programs. By comparison, the Kedzie center sees about 350 clients a year, Sedeo said.
‘We look forward to opening the doors’
The organizing that culminated in LoSAH dates back to 2012, when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed half of the city’s 12 mental health clinics. Among those closed was the Logan Square Clinic, 2354 N. Milwaukee Ave., now home to Easy Does It.
The closure sparked protests and a hearing in the City Assembly. Many neighbors were outraged when the facility was replaced by a gourmet cheese-and-cheese restaurant and 4 a.m. bar, moves that defined Logan Square’s gentrification battle for several years.
Volunteers swung into action in 2018, collecting thousands of signatures to open a community-funded mental health clinic in Logan Square, Hermosa or Avondale.
Their efforts led by the Chicago Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Services led to a binding referendum on the 2018 municipal ballot asking residents if they would support a property tax increase to open the clinic.
The referendum received overwhelming support from Northwest Side voters. A 0.025 percent property tax increase of about $4 for every $1,000 that homeowners pay in property taxes took effect in 2020. A board of commissioners was formed to oversee the creation of the center.
The opening is especially significant against the backdrop of rapid gentrification in the area, center leaders said.
The rapid rebuilding and displacement is radically changing the character and demographics of Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Hermosa and Avondale, making mental health therapy even more urgent, Perez said.
“This is a community that’s been through a lot, and there’s a lot of change here,” Perez said. “Change is hard for everyone.”
Ald. Jessie Fuentes, 26th, cited some of those lingering concerns last month when she refused to lift the alcohol ban to allow a taproom to open on the corner of the building.
Neighbors and members of the mental health center are concerned about how the taproom will affect gentrification, and said it goes against the mental health center’s mission to provide a safe haven for residents, including those struggling with alcoholism or substance abuse.
I believe maintaining the liquor moratorium here is essential to ensure that our priority is the peace, well-being and safety of those who work and seek treatment at the mental health center next door, Fuentes wrote in a letter to constituents.
CONNECTED: Logan Square’s liquor ban is preventing a taproom from opening on West Armitage Avenue
LoSAH will be the first business to open in the building at 3545-3559 W. Armitage Ave., a newly renovated industrial-style property with six storefronts, said Joe Padorr, of Seneca Real Estate Group, the property’s broker.
Center broke through in August after searching for the right location for more than a year, its leaders said.
The 5,000-square-foot warehouse was chosen for its optimal location on the border of Logan and Hermosa Squares, on-street parking and easy access to the Armitage Bus No. 73, the commissioners said.
Construction should be completed in early January, and a grand opening is underway, officials said.
Despite the challenges of finding the right space amid the pandemic, commissioners moving away and the loss of member Sister Diane Collins, who died earlier this year, the board has not stopped its mission, said Milka Ramrez, commissioner and program president.
“In the years we’ve been together since 2019, we’ve only canceled one meeting due to a lack of quorum, so that shows how dedicated these commissioners are,” Ramrez said.
Their collaborative model aligns with the center’s community approach to mental health, Ramrez said. Ahead of the opening, commissioners gathered community input to guide construction decisions, including the center’s name and gold walls, Ramrez said.
As LoSAH leaders prepare for its debut, they hope it can become a community space rather than just a mental health clinic, Ramrez said.
“We look forward to opening doors for our communities, and we truly believe this will be an opportunity for the community to come together, to heal and to be more transformed,” she said.
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