On Friday, January 26, Northwestern Settlement and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) officially inaugurated the Settlement’s new Community Mental Health Center (CMHC). The event, held at the historic Northwestern Settlement House Building, featured remarks from the senator, the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mike Carbonagi, key leaders of the Settlement, a local parent, and Rowe Elementary School’s student council president. The new center will expand access to mental health assistance by building out a new community hub for clinical services at a moment when the social need for them is at an all-time high.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Durbin speaks with CEO of Northwestern Settlement, Carole Wood
Located in the historic Northwestern Settlement House Building, the fully-licensed, bilingual center will serve residents of West Town and the surrounding communities. Building on the basis of the Settlement’s Family CARES program, which was founded in 2017 and focused mainly on students enrolled at Northwestern Settlement’s Rowe Elementary School, the CMHC will employ a roster of full-time, clinical therapists to provide evidence-based treatment to members of the broader community, including students at two other local schools, William H. Wells Community Academy and the Roberto Clemente Community Academy. The CMHC is informed by years of experience consulting with local families and assessing their needs.
The Center was made possible through a federal earmark secured by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who has recognized the critical need for expanded mental health services, particularly for youth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are so excited, and honored, to be launching our new Community Mental Health Center at the Settlement, and we owe Senator Durbin our deep gratitude for helping to make it possible” said Carole Wood, CEO and President of Northwestern Settlement. “This is the culmination of a long, collective effort to provide new resources for our community’s mental health needs. The mental health crisis is a national issue, but we can address it by building out our capacities at the local level. Change begins in our neighborhoods,” Wood added.
Nationally, the need for youth mental health services has only grown since the onset of the pandemic. CDC data shows that 44% of youth reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during 2022, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, more than half (55%) of youth reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or adult, and 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home.
According to a report by the Illinois Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative, nearly 40% of youth in Illinois who have experienced a major depressive episode were not able to access appropriate mental health services and care. The report highlights a significant need to not only address crises as they occur, but to provide comprehensive outpatient mental health services to Medicaid-eligible youth under the age of 21, a population experiencing a critical shortage of available services. The need for these services remains acute, and is projected to remain so in the years to come.
Through the collaborative efforts of staff, elected officials, board members, and neighbors, the CMHC is a proof of concept for social services genuinely embedded in their communities, and for an updated model of the venerable Settlement House institution that modernizes it for the twenty-first century.
Mike Carbonagi, Regional Director for the Great Lakes region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
VP of Family Cares at Northwestern Settlement, Bryan Heidel
Dr. Christine Jacobek, Chair of the Mental Health Committee at Northwestern Settlement
Jeannie Douglas, a local parent and advocate
Rowe Elementary Student Council President, Miya Kargbo