Reaction to August 1st closing of legendary Dr. Carl Bell's Community Mental Health Council and the negative impact on hundreds of mental health patients

WVON’s Perry Small rips pols for closure of Dr. Bell’s mental health center

Senator Trotter says “Fight’s not over” – Dr. Bell to pitch a tent

By Chinta Strausberg

Wednesday, August 1, 2012, Dr. Carl C. Bell’s 37-year-old South Side Community Mental Health Council will officially be closed by the State of Illinois, but Senator Donne Trotter (D-17th) Monday said rather fight for three-month bridge funds, he wants Gov. Pat Quinn to restore all of the funds and keep that facility open because the need is there.

While Trotter is battling to keep the Community Mental health Council open, Dr. Bell said come Wednesday he’s prepared to pitch his tent. “I have a prescription pad and my laptop and am prepared to take care of my patients who need our services.   “I’ve reached about 368 patients that I’ve either seen or talked to but there is another 440 out there,” said Bell who is very worried about those patients who don’t know the State of Illinois has closed down the Health Council.

“They may take their hard earn bus money and show up all the way up to Sept. 17th,” said Bell explaining that he has patients scheduled until that date.   “The board of directors has ordered the building August 1st, but no one is going to be there tomorrow. The next time people are scheduled to be there will be Aug. 1st. I will probably be out there unofficially in my tent,” he said.   WVON’s talk show host Perri Small took to the airwaves blasting the black state caucus for allowing this to happen and isn’t too happy with Gov. Quinn for signing off on the closure of a facility she said saved her life.

The closure is very personal to Small who said when her father died in 2010 “it was like someone ripped my heart out. I was depressed and I began to drink a lot. I did not want to live without my father,” said Small.   Lucky for her she had WVON President/CEO Melody Spann-Cooper for a boss for it was she who sent her to Dr. Bell. “I never thought I would be a person who would need mental health care,” said Small who is from a middle class family.

Dr Bell and his clinic became Small’s lifeline for he saw her once a week for a year. “I don’t think I would have received the kind of care he gave me any place else,” she said.   While state officials say there was alleged mismanagement of funds, Small said, “I didn’t see anyone getting rich there or driving expensive cars or wearing fine clothes. I saw people providing excellent health care.”   “I was trained to be a community psychiatrist so I rightfully expected to have my office on a fire hydrant somewhere…to do what ever it takes to give people the care they so rightly need,” said Bell.

When contacted, Bell said the audit conducted by the state “came back clean.”  “We did not mismanagement anybody’s funds. We spent all that money on patient care.  They haven’t given me the money that we’ve been earning. We have not been able to pay the fiscal staff. There is nobody there to account for anything. They want an accounting of the little bit of money they gave us but there is nothing there. They’ve closed us so how can we give them a report”? asked Bell.   “The state’s audit came back clean. What money have they given us to mismanage? They say they gave us $1 million in 2007 and $1 million in 2009. We spent that on patient care.

We have not mismanaged any money. “   Bell said he is still confused at the behavior of state officials because as early as March of 2012 “they told us they still wanted to do business with us,” he said. “They said we want to see you guys stay open but have concerns about our fiscal operation.   “The last time people got paid was in March of this year and before that it was in December. That was the last time they paid us. How do we get these books up to date when there is nobody there because they did not renew our contract after 37-years.”   “We got a letter two weeks ago saying they wanted to know how we spent our 2012 money. I want to know, too. How are you going to hold us responsible for a 2012 report, which is actually due in 2012, when there is nobody there? They are very smart about how they destroy things. I don’t understand,” said Bell.     “We owe people money. We had payment agreement to everybody we owed and everybody was cool with that,” said Bell. “I was so comfortable with the state’s saying they wanted to continue doing business with us that I computerized the medical records because I thought we’d still be in business.

When the state does not pay you, you cannot make your payments and you fall behind,” said a frustrated Bell.   “I have about 486 patients. There may be another 200 patients who were transferred to me from another doctor at the center, and I am very concerned about them which is why I will be outside of our health council 8 a.m. Wednesday with my tent, a chair, table, laptop and my prescription pad. I am serious about giving mental health care to my patients,” said Bell who wants his Council to remain open but is asking for three-months bridge money to notify his patients of the closure.

However, Trotter said, “We don’t need to be just asking for bridge money. This institution needs to be sustained. We should not settle for a three-month cut-off.  We’ve allowed it to get to this point. That’s conceding. The need will still exist after the transition of these people. Why do we create a new spot when we already have one”? asked Trotter.   The senator said if the state is concerned about an outside audit, they could appoint an oversight committee but to close a 37-year-old historic and needed mental health center should never happen. “We should not be just fighting for a three month bridge funding.

Because that is shortsighted. We need to keep that mental health council opened because the need is still there,” said Trotter.   “There is more than one audit. The audit by the state came up clean but not by the outside auditors. We could have a board oversight committee but the need is still there. We should not be just fighting for three-months, Trotter stated.   Small is furious over the closing of Bell’s health council especially given the city’s recent closure of several mental health clinics. These actions, Small said, “should be a wake-up call” to voters.   On the door of the shuttered mental health council is a letter from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) dated June 14, 2012.

It states: “We wish to inform you that the Department of Human Services will not be retaining Community Mental Health Council (CMHC) as a vendor of state funded mental health services after June 30, 2012.   “We want all active consumers of Division of Mental Health Services to be aware of other DMH service provider organizations in the areas.   “Attached for your information is a listing of nearby providers and important contact information for each. Please contact the location most convenient to you as soon as possible to make a request for services.

“Information about other service providers in Chicago and throughout Illinois can be found at the Illinois Mental Health Collaborative via website: www.illinoismentalhealthcollaborative.com; or call toll free at 866-359-7953 (voice) or 866-880-4459 (TTY).   For your information, Region I South employees are also prepared to provide assistance with linkage to other mental health recovery service providers. You may telephone Anne Moore at 708-614-4037 or Marty Hines at 708-612-4236.   Thank you.   Gustavo Espinosa LCSW IDHS Division of Mental Health Region 1 South

CHINTA STRAUSBERG
chintabernie@aol.com

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