If the D.C. Council does not intervene, the city's largest mental health agency, the nonprofit Center for Mental Health, will close. This agency provides vital services to the people of Anacostia, but its programs and funding have been cut by the D.C. Department of Mental Health to such an extent that it has not been able to pay its rent or meet its payroll.
Martha Knisley, director of the D.C. Department of Mental Health, has said that her department can absorb the thousands of clients who will be set adrift if the center closes. However, those clients will have to go to more than one agency to get all the services the Center for Mental Health delivers. Ms. Knisley also did not address how the center's mostly low-income clients will get to other locations for treatment. Going crosstown on a bus can take two hours.
This month D.C. Council member Marion Barry introduced emergency legislation to save the Center for Mental Health [Metro in Brief, Oct. 12], but the council tabled the measure until Nov. 1.
If the center closes, in addition to lacking good schools and affordable and decent housing, Anacostia will lack one-stop, quality mental health care. The center may not be a tax-base boost like a waterfront development or a baseball stadium, but it is crucial to Anacostia's health. The council did the right thing for the financially ailing the Whitman-Walker Clinic some months back, and it should do no less for the clients of the Center for Mental Health.
The writer is a social worker at the Center for Mental Health.