Mental Health Advocate Frank Alschuler Celebrates 90th Birthday and 42 Years of Service to C4

Mental Health Advocate Frank Alschuler Celebrates 90th Birthday and 42 Years of Service to C4

Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) honored founding board member, Frank Alschuler, during a 90th birthday celebration on Sept. 7 with guests including Alderman James Cappleman. A prominent Chicago architect and compassionate community leader, Alschuler has served on C4’s board of directors for 42 years. Alschuler has dedicated more than half his life to advocating for the needs of people with mental health disorders in the Uptown and Edgewater communities and throughout Chicago.
 
“Frank Alschuler’s contributions are a powerful testimony to his visionary leadership, dedication to the community and unwavering commitment to people with mental health needs. For more than 42 years, he has helped to build the foundation upon which C4 has grown. We are forever grateful for his perseverance and passion that have led to C4’s advancements in providing quality community mental health services to those in need throughout Chicago and the neighboring suburbs,” said Eileen Durkin, C4 president and CEO.
 
During the celebration at his Uptown home of 50 years, Alschuler was presented with resolutions from the U.S. Congress, the Illinois General Assembly and from the Chicago City Council congratulating him on his 90th birthday and recognizing his many contributions toward helping to improve the lives of people in need throughout the Chicagoland area. Alschuler also received notice that his residential street in Uptown will be renamed in his honor.
 
“Frank Alschuler and his late wife Marjorie committed their lives to making sure that the voices of Chicagoans living with mental illness were heard. I personally worked with Marjorie twenty years ago at St. Joseph’s Hospital and saw, firsthand, her ability to teach physicians and the larger community to respect and care for those who are most vulnerable. Whether it was through C4 or Voice of The People, Frank and Marjorie used their gifts to make a powerful impact on the Uptown community,” said Ald. Cappleman.
 
Alschuler’s commitment to finding solutions to the critical needs of people with mental health disorders began in the ‘60s, after the Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) Act, signed by President John F. Kennedy, made mental health services available to community residents who could not pay the full costs of service. An emphasis was placed on communities to solve their own problems, especially for mental health services.
 
At this time, there was an influx of people with mental health needs moving into the Uptown and Edgewater communities from large institutions and hospitals. People with mental health disorders were being relocated to these communities with an expectation they would live independently with the support of outpatient care. 
 
When federal funding began to decline, Alschuler recognized this situation as a mounting community problem and put steps in place to address the essential needs of people with mental health disorders. Alschuler served as a board member of the Voice of the People for Uptown, which promotes and provides quality housing for low-income individuals and families in Uptown and surrounding communities. He also served on the board of the prestigious Chicago Model Cities initiative, a federal urban aid program that was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
 
Alschuler rallied for funding and facilities to support people with mental health needs. In 1971, he co-founded and served as the first board president of the Edgewater Uptown Community Mental Health Council, which was formed by concerned citizens and local agencies to confront the growing mental health service delivery crisis in the community. The Council submitted a grant proposal to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and received $1 million to operate a comprehensive community mental health center for Uptown and Edgewater residents in need. The Council was renamed Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) in 1992.
 
After receiving the NIMH grant, Alschuler and the Council were on their way to providing mental health services in the Uptown and Edgewater communities. As an architect and visionary leader, he recognized facilities were needed to provide the mental health services and he found a solution.
 
“With all of the abandoned and rundown buildings and hotels in the Edgewater and Uptown area (in the early 1970’s), it was a good time to acquire facilities and look to the future. We could use the older and distressed properties as mental health centers and residences,” said Alschuler.
 
On July 1, 1972 the first center opened its doors at Wilson and Sheridan in the Uptown community. Alschuler designed and created the plans for major renovations and served as the architect, engineer and construction project manager—all as a volunteer. He went on to design and renovate five more buildings into C4 mental health centers.
 
The Alschuler family also embraced his compassion for people with mental health needs. When funds were tight, it wasn’t unusual to find his late wife, Marjorie, son and daughter working as volunteers when a new facility was in need of repair.
 
“We enjoyed helping our father at C4 since it was for a very good cause. The Alschuler family had a very efficient system for hanging drywall. We were quite a marvel as a ‘unit.’ My father had specific duties and tasks based on our height and size since we were young children,” said Mimi Alschuler, daughter of Frank Alschuler.
 
About Frank Alschuler
Frank Alschuler was born September 10, 1924. He attended George B. Swift Elementary School and the University of Chicago Lab School. As a college student, Alschuler excelled at Dartmouth College and went on to the Yale School of Architecture. He also served in the United States Navy. In 1954, he started his own architectural practice, Frank Alschuler & Associates, in Illinois. Alschuler married the late Marjorie Traxler in 1960 and they had two children, Matthew and Mimi. In 1965, he and his family moved to their home in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. 
 
About C4
Community Counseling Centers of Chicago(C4) is a leading community mental health agency in Illinois providing mental health services, crisis intervention, and substance use treatment to more than 10,000 at-risk children, adults and families each year throughout Chicago and the neighboring suburbs. For more information, visit www.c4chicago.org.