LOGAN SQUARE — After years in the works, the Logan Square Neighborhood Mental Health Center is almost ready to open.
The LoSAH Center of Hope at 3557 W. Armitage Ave., which has been open since 2018, is scheduled to open in late January, officials said during a recent tour of the storefront. Construction continues, with the interior walls getting a fresh coat of gold paint, with floors, doors and appliances scheduled to be installed next.
LoSAH, short for Logan Square, Avondale and Hermosa, will offer bilingual, affordable mental health services regardless of insurance to residents of the three neighborhoods. It will be known in Spanish as Centro de Esperanza.
The center will provide a full range of services, including individual therapy, couples and family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy and case management, with a focus on early intervention and prevention, executives said.
“This center is something we need and we don’t really have resources like this,” said Veronica Perez, director of operations and a Hermosa resident. “This center is going to alleviate the many gaps that this community suffers from.”
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 therapy offices, said Angela Cedeno, executive director and CEO of Expanded Mental Health Services of Chicago, a service provider. for the center.
Free workshops and community resources such as mental health first aid, art therapy classes and more will also be offered to the public in a community room that will be decorated with art, bright colors and possibly a mural, leaders said.
The facility is funded through a property tax increase approved in 2018. Tax funds will cover 100 percent of the clinic’s costs initially, and additional revenue over time will help the center expand and provide more programs, Cedeno said.
“Public clinics were designed for people with severe mental illnesses, but they weren’t designed for people with everyday problems,” Cedeño said. “I think we’ve all learned that navigating the mental health system is difficult, so even that is a service we can provide; just to help people figure out where to go, how to choose a therapist, how do you know when your child needs therapy?
Center leaders are hiring doctors and other staff who are training at The Kedzie Center in Irving Park, the city’s first community-funded mental health clinic run by the same provider, Cedeno said.
LoSAH will start with five therapists and hopes to grow to eight by spring, Cedeno said.
Officials expect to serve more than 400 clients and the people who help them each year once the center is fully staffed and up and running, they said. The center will serve another 2400 neighbors with community programs. By comparison, the Kedzie center sees about 350 clients a year, Cedeno said.
“We look forward to opening the doors”
The organizing, which 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 at 2354 N. Milwaukee Ave., now home to Easy Does It.
The closure sparked protests and town hall hearings. Many neighbors were outraged when the establishment was replaced by a gourmet mac and cheese restaurant and 4 a.m. bar, moves that settled a gentrification battle in Logan Square for several years.
Volunteers took 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, resulted in a mandatory 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 voters in the northwest. A 0.025 percent property tax increase, about $4 for every $1,000 homeowners pay in property taxes, took effect in 2020. A committee management board was established to oversee the creation of the center.
Center leaders noted that the opening is especially significant amid the rapid development of the area.
Rapid redevelopment 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 been a lot of change here,” Perez said. “Change is hard for anyone.”
Ald. Jesse Fuentes (26th) cited some of those lingering concerns last month when he refused to lift the liquor ban to allow a diner to open in a corner section of the building.
Neighbors and members of the mental health center worried how the room would affect gentrification, and they said it went against the mental health center’s mission to provide a safe haven for residents, including those struggling with alcoholism or substance abuse.
“I believe that maintaining a liquor moratorium here is important to ensure that we prioritize the peace, well-being and safety of those who work and seek treatment at the neighborhood mental health center,” Fuentes wrote in a letter to voters.
CONNECTED. Logan Square liquor ban prevents Taproom from opening on West Armitage Avenue
LoSAH will be the first business to open at 3545-3559 W. Armitage Ave. in the building, a newly renovated industrial-style property with six storefronts, said Joe Pador of Seneca Real Estate Group, the property’s broker.
The center broke through in August After more than a year of searching for the right location, its leaders said:
The 5,000-square-foot warehouse was chosen because of its optimal location on the border of Logan Square and Hermosa, on-street parking and easy access to the Armitage No. 73 bus, commissioners said.
Officials said construction will be completed in early January and a grand opening celebration is underway.
Despite the challenges of finding the right space amid the pandemic, commissioners leaving and the loss of member Sister Diane Collins, who died earlier this year, the council has not stopped its mission, said Milka Ramirez, commissioner and program chair.
“In the years that we’ve been together since 2019, we’ve only canceled one meeting because of a lack of quorum, so that shows how dedicated these commissioners are,” Ramirez said.
Their collaborative model aligns with the center’s community-based approach to mental health, Ramirez said. Before the opening, commissioners gathered community input to make construction decisions, including the center’s name and gold walls, Ramirez said.
As LoSAH leaders prepare for its debut, they hope it can become a community space and not just a mental health clinic, Ramirez said.
“We look forward to opening the doors to our communities, and we truly believe this will be an opportunity for the community to come together, heal and transform even more,” he said.
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