My Journey into Medicaid Cancellation

My Journey into Medicaid Cancellation

On Oct. 25, 2014, I received a DHS letter stating that “beginning 2014 your benefits will change as follows: YOUR MEDICAL BENEFITS WILL STOP.”

“Reason for this action: “YOU DID NOT RETURN YOUR REDETERMINATION FORM BY 10/14/14.”

On the back of the form, the letter said, “If you continue to need medical help, you may reapply.”

Day 1:

I hopped on the Red Line to 5050 N. Broadway to check with my DRS caseworker, who provided me with DRS paperwork.

While I sat waiting for the papers, I witnessed the “greeter” who yelled at an Asian woman, “What is your disability? DISABILITY?” The lady did not understand. “He said DISABILITY. What’s WRONG with you?” She said she is caring for her mother and wants reimbursement. The greeter asked what her mother’s name is. She gave a name and he looked her up in the computer and couldn’t find the mother. The lady said her mother wasn’t signed up for Medicaid. The man told her she had to sign her mother up. He walked away and another caseworker came over and discovered that the mother was 88 and not eligible for Medicaid. The daughter had to go to the Dept. of Aging. The lady was ready to cry so I told her where the Dept. of Aging was and that they would take good care of her. The greeter came back and said to the other caseworker, “I already talked to her.” I said, “She doesn’t understand.” He muttered under his breath, “She just doesn’t want to understand.”

After I received my paperwork, I went down to the “Family Community Resource Center Uptown” what was stated to be me DHS on a notice dated November 3, 2014. I entered a small waiting room with 45 filled chairs in it and about 30 more people standing and milling around. In the very back corner of the room was a security guard. I told her I wanted to apply for Medicaid so she gave me a number and a form to fill out. I  waited about an hour and was called to a window. I told the caseworker my problem, and he refused me serve me because he said I had to go to the Skokie office because that was where I was assigned. I asked him if I could change my office. He said it was possible, but it would take about 45 days. It was at this point that I began coughing, wheezing and sweating. The air seemed very stale and I became very anxious and had an asthma attack.

I left the office and as soon as I got outside, I felt better. Since it was late in the afternoon, I decided to go home and go to Skokie another day when I felt better. So I took the 36 bus back home.

Time elapsed, day 1: 2.5 hours

Day 2:

I hopped on the Red Line to Howard Street and caught the 97 bus to Oakton and St. Louis. I joined over 200 people waiting to see a caseworker. There are no caseworkers assigned to any one person so everybody had to wait. Again, like Uptown’s office, a desk with a security guard in the back of the room handed out number cards, depending on what you wanted to do. She gave me two cards: one to change my office (express line) and one to submit my application. I asked her if I should wait before changing my office so my file wouldn’t get lost. She said to go ahead and change the office first. Against my better judgment, I went to the express line and asked the man if I should wait before I change my DHS office. He said that yes, I should wait; in fact, my caseworker could do it all. I thanked him and sat down to wait for someone to call my caseworker number. After 45 minutes, they called my number, which I handed in. In the meantime, a half an hour later, I became very hot and sweaty, the room reeked of feces and when I entered the Ladies Room (inaccessible for handicapped), wet toilet paper line the based of the entire room and I had to flee from the building so that I wouldn’t vomit. Took the 97 bus to Howard Red Line and then home.

Time elapsed, day 2: 3 hours

Day 3:

In the morning the next day, I hopped on the Red Line to Howard Street and caught the 97 bus to Oakton and St. Louis. I joined over 250 people waiting to see a caseworker. I got a new number from the back desk, and the office smelled clean and the floors were clean. I thought I’d have to wait a longer time than the day before, and was pleasantly surprised to have my number called within 20 minutes. A caseworker called me within 10 more minutes. I had to sit in a temporary cubicle in the main waiting room to talk to my caseworker, with no privacy afforded me. I showed her my paper work and she made a copy of my bank statement that was the documentation missing from my predetermination report. This took about 15 minutes. When I left, there were almost 300 people waiting.

Time elapsed, day 3: .75 hours

Total time elapsed: 6.25 hours

Comment:

This is a mild case of how that State of Illinois, Department of Human Services treats its customers. It gives insufficient time to complete reports, gives conflicting and incomplete information, treats people disrespectfully, and keeps its facilities so dirty that customers may become ill. This is our fight, and removing these blights is our goal.

Please contact Kathy Powers to help the poor regain their dignity. If you have experienced problems in the DHS offices, join our team to solve these problems. You’ll be glad you did.

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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?

More Good News from the Drop-In Center

By Kathy Powers, C4 Member

Here are the latest statistics about the Drop-In Center at C4. On Monday, March 12, 2012, C4 5710 N. Broadway opened a drop-in center to provide persons with mental illness enjoy a consumer-driven, safe haven and comfortable environment. Herb Cobbs and Troy Butler, the center’s coordinators, help participants empower themselves toward recovery. Each day, when a person signs into the center, they get a voucher to spend at the center’s snack bar. The center’s hours have expanded from 11:00-4:00, Monday through Friday. Increased hours are on the horizon, as needed. Officially, 135 persons are now registered, with an average of 40 participants attending per day.

The center offers people to make choices and follow through on them. Recently, the center organized a writing group with a blogging post, a book group, a walking group twice a week and haircuts on a sign-in basis. The center offers a place to relax, enjoy and just experience. Games, movies informal groups inhibit participants from self-isolation and loneliness.

On April 13, 2012, willing participants took public transportation to the mental health rally at the Thompson Center to encourage the State to spend more money on mental health care and research. Media representatives interviewed some of the members.

As you can see, the drop-in center offers intellectual pursuits, health and grooming aids and the excitement of political action. More to come….

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.

Northside Action for Justice

Northside Action for Justice (NA4J)
1020 West Bryn Mawr #312
Chicago, IL 60660
Meeting March 10, 2012
10:00 a.m.

Fran Tobin opened the meeting discussing how important it is that HR services be delivered in the communities where they are needed. Closing any office adds to overcrowded, understaffed conditions and causes the disabled, seniors and the poor to travel farther using less accessible public transportation. Administrative errors will inevitably occur causing lost records and information. The Alliance for Community Services issued a petition to the governor to not close IL Department of Human Service centers (attached).

Regarding the closing of city mental health clinics, on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, protest groups plan to congregate at City Hall on the 2nd floor at 9:00 a.m.

A discussion ensued whereby money is easily available by taxing large corporations thereby paying for human services. It appears that the cuts are in reverse priority.

The next item concerned the disposition of the Maryville center in Uptown. Developers wish to build high-end residences while the community desires TIF funds to finance the Sedgewick block to return the property to a low-cost youth center.

Brief reference was made to an OCCUPY/NATO education gathering in May hosted by several advocacy groups.

Eighteen city schools have closed in “special areas” of the city, especially on the west side.

A Tax Wall Street protest is planned on March 18 at 11:00 a.m. from the Sheraton to Daley Plaza (at 12:15).

Reported by Kathy Powers

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