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Emanuel Discusses Health Agenda, But Dodges Protesters

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A group of mental health advocates staged a protest of the city of Chicago's proposal to transfer mental health care from city clinics to privately run facilities on Tuesday at the University Club of Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel was speaking, but Emanuel avoided the protesters by going in a side door. (Credit: CBS)

A group of mental health advocates staged a protest of the city of Chicago’s proposal to transfer mental health care from city clinics to privately run facilities on Tuesday at the University Club of Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel was speaking, but Emanuel avoided the protesters by going in a side door. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel has unveiled plans to make Chicago a healthier city by focusing on issues of fitness, disease control, and access to health care. But at least one part of his health care agenda has its critics and they were waiting for Emanuel at one of his public events on Tuesday.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that those critics prompted the mayor to slip in a side door at his next event.

For the record, the mayor’s office said he always uses the side door for such events, but the real reason was probably avoiding a confrontation with the protestors, or even pictures of him walking past them.

A not-so-warm welcome awaited the mayor downtown Tuesday morning, with a group protesting the proposed transfer of mental health care from city clinics to privately run facilities.

The group claimed the lack of proper treatment for the mentally ill will lead to more cases for police.

“We are blessed to have the officers that we have, but if they’re not allowed to their job and their forced to do someone else’s job, that’s going to be a burden on the city,” mental health advocate N’Dana Carter said.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Bechara Choucair, said “We definitely believe that people with mental illness — we want to make sure they do have access to great, to good high quality level services and we’re right now in the process of evaluating our mental health clinics.”

But instead of confronting the protestors who were waiting at the front door of the University Club of Chicago, located at 76 E. Monroe St., on Tuesday morning, Emanuel’s SUV pulled up and stopped briefly while the driver conferred briefly with the head of his security detail.

Other uniformed officers meanwhile blocked off a nearby alley and moments later, the mayor and his party drove down the alley, stopped and entered the building.

Neither the protesters, not reporters, were allowed inside for the Mayor’s speech. Access to health care was one of the 12 priorities that made up his Healthy Chicago initiative, which he outlined at a news conference Tuesday morning.

“Whether its cancer, whether it’s what you’ve talked about in the wellness area, but making clear distinct goals for smoking, weight loss, all things that lead to better living,” Emanuel said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

The mayor plans to soon unveil another wellness program for city employees, with incentives for them to take better care of themselves – and, in the process, save the city tens of millions of dollars in health care costs.

Wellness programs have become more common in private industry and the mayor said he’ll make Chicago the first big city in America to have a comprehensive wellness program.

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