Chicago Safety-Net Hospital Offers Free Mental Health Services During Pandemic

Exterior of building - Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony Hospital (SAH), a safety-net hospital in Chicago, is continuing to provide free mental health services targeting minority and immigrant populations – through its Community Wellness Program – despite challenges due to COVID-19.

Throughout the United States, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Brown communities. In the 60623 zip code that SAH serves, Hispanic and Black residents account for 66.1% and 30.4% of the population, respectively. In addition, 33.4% of the population lives in poverty. During the months of April and May, the state of Illinois observed positive cases around 14%; the neighboring communities that SAH serves saw their positive cases numbers around 48%.

SAH Community Wellness Programs specific to mental health services include free individual and couples psychotherapy, as well as therapeutic and psycho-educational groups to support adults experiencing chronic depression, anxiety and the effects of trauma. SAH clinicians and social workers are bilingual and culturally competent to reflect their patients.

During COVID-19, the rapid expansion and adoption of telehealth is one strategy in place to provide access to care, while still abiding by social distancing guidelines. Although SAH physicians and therapists have welcomed the use of telehealth, barriers to widespread use, such as internet access and difficulties in using technology among older patients, are a real concern.

SAH has not only provided mental health services for patients but also offered services for clinicians and staff affected by the pandemic. James Sifuentes, senior vice president of mission and community development at SAH, explained, “It was imperative for us to provide counseling services for our providers who may have been overwhelmed by the amount of patients they were seeing or affected by the pandemic in other ways.” To learn more, read the case study from the AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity (IFDHE).

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