C4 closes May 31, 2015 and need for mental health services safety net in metropolitan areas

http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-04-27/morning-shift-c4-closing-111943

Meeting with Alderman Waugespack on 10/9/2013

My name is Kathy Powers. I am here today with the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) and the Mental Health Justice Group. I am 63 and have lived with bipolar illness since I was 11. I spent years in hospitals in four separate states. I used to receive excellent care at the Northtown/Rogers Park Mental Health Clinic. Due to funding cuts to the city system in 2010, with no warning or referral services, I lost the opportunity to see a psychiatrist. Because of this, I could not get my medicine.

On one occasion, I went to an emergency room to get a prescription that lasted a month. Then I needed hospitalization when my meds ran out. I did well in the hospital when I received meds and services, but after discharge, I could not find a psychiatrist who would accept Medicare or Medicaid. Then the six Chicago clinics closed completely, leaving me med-less and therapy-less.

After my second hospitalization in a month, I began to receive minimal psychiatric services at C4. Through group therapy, I discovered that I was not alone in trying to receive services.

I am now involved with the Mental Health Justice Group at ONE Northside as advocacy is an important part of my recovery. We are a group of people living with mental illness and allies from the community fighting for the rights of people living with mental illness throughout the north side specifically in Uptown, Edgewater, Lakeview, Lincoln Park and Rogers Park. 

Our view on mental illness is that recovery is possible. We believe that people living with mental illness should live in the least restrictive setting possible. We believe people living with mental illness are not dangerous or violent. In fact, studies show that people living with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crimes, rather than perpetrators. Though we hold these beliefs and have much evidence to support them, the mainstream stigma associated with people living with mental illness can be overwhelming. We want to end this stigma.

One way in which this can happen is through increasing the number of Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) police officers. CIT is a 40 hour training program for Police Officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and de-escalation techniques. We want the CIT program used more, become better known in the community and have mental health providers promote the program.

We see police officers as first responders who define how communities treat people living with mental illness in crisis. We want to increase the number of CIT-trained officers in our communities and throughout the city to improve appropriate placement of persons in crisis, divert persons in crisis to treatment centers rather than prison, and to reduce the stigma for people living with mental illness.

Through our research and meetings with stakeholders, we discovered that there is a waiting list of over 400 officers who want CIT training. A bottleneck effect occurs because there are only 2.5 full staff CIT-training members in the entire Chicago Police Department. We want to get that number increased to 10 full-staff training members so that more officers are trained and in the streets working in our communities.

We seek support from legislators, the police department and mental health provider agencies to accomplish this goal.

I ask for your support in two ways. First, will you send a letter to your local District Commander to push for their support of the CIT Program locally? (Alderman Waugespack agrees.)

Secondly, will you join us in bringing this issue to the monthly Com Stat meeting of the CPD in the next few months to encourage an increase to ten full-time staff members within the CIT training division to end the bottleneck effect?

My Testimony on 2/21/14 at Stean-Cassidy-Cassidy Town Hall

My name is Kathy Powers. I am on the Steering Committee of the Alliance for Community Services and on the Board of Northside Action for Justice. I live with bipolar illness since the age of 11. I thank goodness that I have Medicare and Medicaid.

I sincerely believe that the four-drug limit be abolished. I take 20 different medications a day. If I had to choose only four of drugs on my list, I would have to choose losing my kidneys, thyroid, gi tract, perennial rhinitis, chronic pain that goes along my five back fusions, liver, suffer parkinsonian symptoms, suffer movement disorder symptoms that involve me biting my mouth spasmodically, lose control of my diabetes and/or risk my psychiatric welfare. When the rules change for dual-eligibles (persons with Medicare and Medicaid benefits), the reality of a medication limitation looms closer every day.

When the well-intentioned prior authorization process was added, there was some hope to obtain sufficient medication. Unfortunately, the prior authorization process yielded unworkable results. Persons at my C4 drop-in center had their medications denied. The reasons for the denials included “denial because it is denied,” “denial because it was already approved.”The latter denial of medication caused my friend to cut herself from head to toe in total frustration and spend a lengthy hospital time to heal from her physical wounds while she received her needed medication. The authorization process is broken and dangerous.

When one takes medications as I do, this situation effects dental health. I have three teeth left on the bottom of my mouth and I’m missing four teeth on the top (show). This lack of teeth causes me to choke a great deal when I eat, makes it almost impossible to chew. I need dentures, at least on the bottom, so I will stop choking, but I can’t afford them and can’t find any assistance to get them. I’ve been known to choke on liquids and solids, and now I have an unnecessary risk for heart disease because of my poor dental health.

Since prescribed medications prevent medical emergencies, hospitalizations and lower doctor visits, I think Congress would be wise to consider the cost savings by removing the limit on medications allowed, just as an economic boost to the Medicaid economy. As far as dental health goes, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is at risk for cardiac disease or a choking emergency or death because of lack of dental care.

Thank you for your time.

Speech at Chicago Mental Health Rally on May 15, 2013 at the Thompson Center

Kathy Powers delivering speech

Good afternoon!

My name is Kathy Powers. I am here today with the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) and the Organization of the Northeast (ONE). C4 teaches me how to control my symptoms, and ONE feeds my soul by teaching me how to advocate for my community through actions and leadership training.

I am 62 and have lived with bipolar illness since I was 11. I spent years in hospitals in four separate states. Almost every day, I used to wake up with a sense of dread and hopelessness about life. Through the support of strangers with random acts of kindness, and some hard therapy and soul searching by me, I actually feel some happiness and know that I must share what I can to help others as they helped me.

The Mental Health Justice Group of ONE is a group of mental health consumers and allies in Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park. We fight to protect community mental health services and thereby improve the lives of our neighbors living with mental illness. At the state level, we complement our allies’ work, including the Mental Health Summit and the Behavioral Health Advocates.

The Governor’s 2014 state budget proposes a $25M increase in the Department of Mental Health (DMH) budget, mostly to comply with the Williams v. Quinn Consent Decree that orders the discontinuation of warehousing persons living with mental illness who recovered in nursing homes and reintegrate them into the community. Although we think that Williams needs full funding, this funding must not take away money from all other mental health funding.

I used to receive excellent care at the Northtown/Rogers Park Mental Health Clinic. Due to funding cuts to the city system, with no warning or referral services, I lost the opportunity to see a psychiatrist. Because of this, I could not get my medicine. After that, I went to an emergency room to get a prescription that lasted a month. Then I needed hospitalization when my meds ran out. I did well in the hospital when I received meds, but after discharge, I could not find a psychiatrist who would accept Medicare or Medicaid. Then the five Chicago clinics closed completely, leaving me med-less and therapy-less.

After my second hospitalization in a month, I began to receive minimal psychiatric services at C4. Through group therapy, I discovered that I was not alone in trying to receive services. How many here have similar stories? Give a shout!

If the state does not increase the budget to mental health, the cuts from previous years will remain inadequate to serve the needs for recovery services. It needs to reinvest in community mental health services and bring funding to the present levels that it cut in the past.

The Supportive Housing Budget at $28.5M assures me that I will continue to get appropriate housing. This lifts a tremendous burden from me about worrying that society will “disappear” me and chuck me in a hellhole facility forever if I relapse. I see the only redeeming factor of institutionalization as self-motivation to get out or die. How many of you or your loved ones are trying to escape now?

The cumulative savings from fewer hospitalizations, ER visits and institutionalization by funding community recovery treatment is effective and less costly than non-treatment. Cuts negatively affect the community and make services scarce, increase illness by inadequate services, and multiply stigma and ignorance about mental illness. Worst of all, inadequate recovery services impair persons living with mental illness from becoming contributing members of society. Like me, like you, like your loved ones!

Thank you.

Good News in the Mental Health Community

Good News in the Mental Health Community

By Kathy Powers, C4 Member

On Monday, March 12, 2012 at 11:00 a.m., C4 on Broadway at 5710 N. Broadway opened its doors to the mental health community with a drop-in center to help people with mental illnesses reintegrate into their community. Led by Erin Lipman, Herb Cobbs and Troy Butler, the center offers a consumer-driven, safe haven and comfortable environment to assist participants to empower themselves toward recovery. The center offers people to make choices and follow through on them.

The center gives consumers a place to go, a place to be. One is able to relax, enjoy and just experience. Hopefully, participants will attend and avoid isolating in their homes and on the streets.

The center’s hours are 11:00-4:00, Monday through Friday. Hours may increase to weekends when needed. 69 people registered to drop in during the first week.

%d bloggers like this: