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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Healthy Community Award

Saint Anthony Hospital Mental Health Services

Eric Young Smith

For more than 100 years, Saint Anthony Hospital has been providing care and comfort to Southwest Side Chicago residents, regardless of their ability to pay. It is part of the community hospital’s mission to strengthen the neighborhoods it serves.

Consistent with that mission, in 2003 Saint Anthony created its Mental Health Services program to offer therapy to residents who otherwise would be unable to afford it. Bilingual clinical social workers provide free individual and couples psychotherapy, allowing for long-term trauma-focused treatment while 12-week sessions of small-group therapy are also available.

To identify those in need, Saint Anthony partners with a strong set of neighborhood organizations that refer clients. This year Saint Anthony served nearly 300 people in Pilsen, Little Village, North Lawndale, Brighton Park and Gage Park with a mental health services team that has doubled in size over the last two years and now includes four full-time therapists and one supervisor.

Staff attributes the receptiveness of mental services among historically reticent populations to strong preparatory work. Working with The Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and others, Saint Anthony’s researched the barriers that prevented people from accessing its services and addressed them said Kira Harris, who supervises the program. “So, we provide free childcare and bus passes and have evening appointments for working people.” Further augmenting accessibility, Saint Anthony operates programs at satellite health centers that are located in the various communities the hospital serves.

Asked why the hospital is committed to expanding mental health care, they say the answer is simple – that if mental health problems stay unaddressed, then they can lead to illness, violent behavior, homelessness, unemployment and other conditions that undermine community wellness.

“It starts with mental health,” said Guy Medaglia, Saint Anthony’s president and CEO. “Before you can fix the body, you have to fix the mind.”