CHICAGO—Local Chicago activists convened at City Hall to voice their grievances regarding the city police’s improper handling of individuals experiencing mental health crises.
Representing multiple mental health advocacy organizations, the activists’ main concerns included a lack of access to mental health facilities for everyone and not enough funds being allocated toward mental health professionals to respond and/or assist on certain emergency (911) calls.
“Collaborative for Community Wellness spearheaded this campaign,” said Asha Edwards, 21. “We really wanted to amplify the referendum for the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance, and also to support people with mental health disorders, not criminalize them. The Chicago police have been killing people with mental health disorders or they have been brutalizing them. That’s not the help that we need. We need treatment not trauma. We need social workers and we need mental health clinics reopened. Most importantly, we need love.”
According to a 2021 article by blockclubchicago.org, Chicago police responded to more than 41,000 calls “with a mental health component” in 2019, according to documents the department provided in budget hearings. According to a 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center titled “Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters,” a minimum of one in four fatal police encounters ends the life of an individual with severe mental illness.
The Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) teams operate six hours a day, five days a week, and only in four of Chicago’s 22 police districts. The pilot program dispatches mental health clinicians and emergency medical responders to some 911 calls, but not all mental health disturbance calls are eligible for a CARE response. The gathering at city hall took place October 21 and attracted many young activists.
Asha Ranspy-Sporon, 28, stated, “Treatment Not Trauma is a proposal for the city to invest more in mental health and specifically to create a crisis response system that would dispatch mental health professional instead of armed police officers.”
“I have been working on a referendum, to which there is a referendum on three wards in Chicago. In the 20th, 6th and 33rd wards, voters would be able to vote directly on whether they want the city to reopen the clinics that were closed in and before 2012, and also invest in this crisis response hotline,” Ms. Ranspy-Sporon continued,
“I don’t understand why money is being given to the police and we need mental health clinics. I feel like Mayor Lightfoot does not care about the youth or for the people who voted for her. She has made so many broken promises. My grandfather is schizophrenic and sometimes he would become physically violent, and my family would have to unfortunately call the police. The police would brutalize him and take him to jail, instead of a mental health professional being there to calm him down,” said Destiny Bell, 20.
The city of Chicago has allocated $3.5 million to CARE in its 2022 budget.
“When I first moved here from New York in 2021, one of the first things I was introduced to was the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance and became excited about it and I really wanted to get involved right away,” said Isabel Figueroa, 34. “I believe that mental health should be accessible and I also believe that the police escalate situations.”
—Shawntell Muhammad, Contributing Writer
America’s tragic and growing opioid crisis
Months after music mogul Percy “Master P” Miller’s daughter Tytyana Miller was found dead, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office confirmed she died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl intoxication. Only in her twenties, Tytyana’s losing battle with addiction lasted for nearly a decade, according to her family. Tytyana tragically joined the growing number of people making Fentanyl the leading cause of death for U.S. adults between 18-45, according to the CDC.
America’s drug crisis is caused by several factors. The potently addictive drug fentanyl has a cheap price of $2.00 for a single dose. Easy access to fentanyl, whether on the street or from a doctor’s prescription, has created a drug problem that according to the CDC, has killed more people than COVID-19, suicide and car accidents. The CDC reports that of 100,000 adults who died of drug overdoses from 2018 to 2020, a staggering 19,400—19 percent—died from a fentanyl overdose.
“America has a drug culture,” said Dr. Kelly Montgomery, who practices in Grand Prairie, Texas. “Drug addiction is not new, but Fentanyl may be the worse we’ve seen,” Dr. Montgomery told The Final Call. Heroin was an epidemic in the1920s when hundreds of thousands were addicted. Before it was outlawed it was sold over the counter. Heroin is an opioid like fentanyl, but fentanyl is more powerful. Fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It takes as little as two milligrams to be fatal,” he added.
“However, every problem can’t be solved with drugs. If you’re not on America’s drug of choice you’re incarcerated. Look at the numerous people jailed for weed. Now the government is in the weed business. Prince died from fentanyl. It’s everywhere and drug makers made it easy to acquire. Drugs are promoted for everything, and people get hooked.”
America’s worst drug crisis began with “insufficient regulation of the pharmaceutical and health-care industries enabled a profit-driven quadrupling of opioid prescribing,” according to the Standford-Lancet Commission on the North American Opioid Crisis. This insufficiency in pharmaceutical and healthcare regulations led to lives lost, families destroyed and numerous lawsuits.
According to the commission report, doctors prescribed fentanyl freely, departing from long-standing norms that were standards before the mid-1990s. They prescribed fentanyl, and extremely potent opioids for a broad range of chronic, non-cancer pain conditions. This led to hundreds of thousands fatally overdosing on prescription opioids. Millions more became addicted to opioids or were harmed because of their opioid use or someone else’s (eg, disability, family breakdown, crime, unemployment, bereavement). Families got fed up with addiction and began to sue.
CVS and Walgreens agreed to pay a combined $10 billion to settle opioid lawsuits, the pharmacy chains announced on November 2. Walmart has also tentatively agreed to pay $3 billion to resolve similar lawsuits, Bloomberg reported. The agreement wouldn’t be finalized until enough states, counties and cities agree to the terms, the outlet said.
CVS and Walgreens are the recent companies to settle. In 2020 Purdue Pharma, maker of the opioid OxyContin, pled guilty to impeding the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) in their investigations. Purdue Pharma’s infractions included facilitating unlawful prescriptions of OxyContin.
For Master P and his family, the lawsuits won’t bring his daughter back. He posted on Instagram, “We appreciate all of the prayers, love and support.” “Mental illness & substance abuse is a real issue that we can’t be afraid to talk about. With God, we will get through this. #MyAngel.”
—Nisa Islam Muhammad, Staff Writer