Bob Simpson

Bob Simpson
Oak Park, Illinois, United States
August 05
Retired history teacher and former web production guy
Webtrax Studio
So who is this guy? Well, my name is Bob “Bobbo” Simpson.I am a retired teacher and former web production guy. I am also 1/2 of the Carol Simpson labor cartoon team.

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APRIL 18, 2012 3:54PM

Occupy Mental Health! Save the Chicago Clinics

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  “What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?---Ursula K. Le Guin

While riding the Blue Line downtown to the April 16 Monday morning press conference by Chicago’s Mental Health Movement, I couldn’t help but reflect on Mayor Rahm’s Emanuel’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is obsessive about funneling money to Chicago’s wealthy and compulsive about his attacks on services for Chicago’s working class. Rahm’s latest offensive is the closing of 6 of Chicago's 12 mental health clinics. 

The plan to close the clinics first came up last fall during protests surrounding the Mayor’s proposed budget, which also included slashing library services, privatizing neighborhood health clinics and layoffs of public employees. Mental health patients and workers staged a 10 hour sit-in outside the Mayor’s Office. They were forced to leave when security locked the toilet facilities.  

Below is a video produced shortly after the fall round of protests.

Voices from Chicago's mental health clinics


Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has criticized the cuts arguing that limited access to mental health care is turning his jail into "the largest mental health provider in the state of Illinois." 

Undaunted, and calling themselves the Mental Health Movement, the group continued their struggle. The Mental Health Movement is a member of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), a five year old community coalition with an impressive record of winning victories. According to N’Dana Carter, a clinic user and spokeswoman for the  Mental Health Movement, the group collected over 4000 support letters, talked to nearly all of the City’s aldermen and held numerous press conferences and rallies. 

Finally, with the deadline fast approaching for the closing of the Southside Chicago Woodlawn Clinic, the group decided to take dramatic and drastic action.  On Thursday April 12, they entered the Woodlawn Mental Health Center at 5 pm and barricaded themselves inside to demand a meeting with Mayor Emanuel.

N’Dana Carter explained why:

” We are the ones who know the disaster these clinic closures will mean for our communities and our city but Mayor Emanuel been unwilling to listen to us, so we are taking drastic measures to avoid a tragedy and defend our human rights."

Supporters gathered in front of the clinic, sitting-in and linking arms as more police arrived. Occupy Chicago played an important role in organizing the spirited protests outside where people chanted,” Fight! Fight! Fight! Health care is a human right!” Shortly after midnight, the police gained entrance to the clinic using chain saws, bolt cutters and other heavy tools. They arrested 23 people.

Inside the Woodlawn Clinic before the bust:

Outside of the Clinic before the bust:

According to the arrestees, some of whom were elderly and in fragile health, they were treated in a dangerous and humiliating way by being roughly handled, not screened for possible mental episodes and being ridiculed by their captors. Supposedly the Chicago Police Department has a crisis intervention unit trained to deal with situations like this. They were nowhere in evidence.

One of the arrestees later told of how two of the group members were denied medication:

”[They] were in crisis and if not for the fact that we there to advocate for them, they could have had a life threatening crisis. This was a serious failure of our criminal justice system and we can expect more and more untreated people to be channeled through this prison system we are going to have many many crises and tragedies because people are not being assessed and treated for their conditions. It was an eye-opening experience”

N’Dana Carter told of being groped by a male officer in her vaginal area under the guise of being searched, a search that should only be conducted by a female officer. She described it as, “A sexual assault.” 

After being released, the Mental Health Movement set up a small tent village in a weedy vacant lot across from the Woodlawn clinic. The tent village had a rough weekend of bad weather, but was still standing strong when the Mental Health Movement traveled downtown to hold a April 16 Monday morning press conference in front of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and later meet with CDPH officials.

Among those at the  press conference was Timothy Hudson, a member of the Illinois Nurses Association (INA). The INA has been supporting the efforts of the Mental Health Movement. A former public health nurse, Hudson explained that nurses are also advocates for their patients:

”We are here to add our voice to the outcry, to the support, support for the enhancement of services for the providers who are already educated and trained to do the work and build what we have as a base instead of destroying what we have. I am very concerned about what the outcomes will be.”

Horace Howard, who goes to one of the clinics, described himself this way,” 

"I am a mental health consumer, but I am a member, a volunteer of STOP. But I am also just an Illinois resident and a city resident, but I’m out here standing up for people. I’m not scared anymore. I’m not afraid to say I had a mental illness.”


Wooldwan Clinic banner

Later the group met with the  officials of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) who tried to reassure them that their needs would be taken care of by the CDPH “partner institutions”, as well as the remaining public clinics. 

This was met by deep skepticism by the Mental Health Movement activists who told of people already being turned away after referrals. One woman gave details about the understaffed Greater Lawn Mental Health Center whose workers cried when they had to turn away new patients. The term "partner institutions" is just a gussied-up term for privatization, and private health care has no interest in patients that don't generate a profit. 

Jo Patton of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees(AFSCME Council 31 was also there to offer its support. AFSCME has been very helpful throughout the entire struggle and helped the Mental Health Movement produce a 23 page report in January. I have quoted from that report below. For the full report, please go HERE

Dumping Responsibility:The Case Against Closing CDPH Mental Health Clinics 

  1. The city’s claimed cost savings are tiny and illusory. CDPH claims closing clinics will save $2 million—barely 1% of its $169 million annual budget. And this claim ignores the budgetary, societal and human costs of inevitable disruptions in patient care—including increased emergency room visits, hospitalization, police intervention and incarceration.
  2. CDPH should cut waste—including $1.67 million in new spending on upper management salaries, outside contracts, advertising and surveys. This amount should be used to sustain and improve city MH clinics.
  3. CDPH would transfer at least 1,100 Medicaid patients to private providers— effectively giving away federal reimbursement for their services. If this plan is budget-driven, it is illogical to turn away patients with the ability to pay.
  4. Closing six clinics will force 2,549 patients to travel to other city clinics or seek private care. There is no guarantee that private providers and hospitals will offer treatment regardless of ability to pay. The system’s more than 3,000 uninsured individuals are least likely to find private care since such providers already face shrinking budgets and reduced state funding.
  5. CDPH is rushing to close clinics in just eight weeks—despite having six months of funding in the budget and nothing but an outline of a plan for patient care. CDPH has circulated a list of private providers, but admits it has no formal agreements with or information regarding capacity, services and wait times from these agencies.

As I sat in on the meeting with the Department of Public Health that Monday morning, I thought of my own struggles with depression, of being lost in that long dark tunnel of despair and on at least two occasions, wondering if I was going to come out alive. Fortunately I had access to some limited treatment, even though my health insurance didn't cover it because it was a pre-existing condition. 

When people are in that kind of state, it’s difficult for them to fight their own inner demons, much less ones with the power of the Mayor’s Office and the LaSalle Street financial barons. The mental health patients who are carrying on this battle are health care heroes and deserve to be treated as such.

That evening however, the police arrived in the dead of night and treated them like criminals once again. They forced the Mental Health Movement to dismantle their tents so that people ended up sleeping in cars and sitting upright in chairs on the sidewalk. The cops said that owner of the vacant lot had complained. It was a lie. The complaint did not come from the owner. No one even seems to know who the owner is. The demonstrators did lose a tent to the police, but managed to hang on to most of their food and supplies.

The protestors held another press conference on Tuesday afternoon and with the media present, tried to set up their tent village once again on the vacant lot. Their lawyer explained that as long as there has not been a complaint from the property owner, the people were within their rights to do that. The police moved in, arrested two indivduals, seemingly at random, and forced the protestors back on to the sidewalk. One of the cops said that the courts could settle it.

Southside Chicago has been plagued with shootings in recent months and diverting police officers away from serious crime investigations is itself a crime. Rahm Emanuel’s priorities are clear. Despite all of the facts presented and the personal stories told, the Mayor’s obsessive catering to the wealthy and his compulsive dissing of the working class goes on unabated. Mr. Mayor, seek help.

The Mental Health Movement  had a successful Saturday, April 21 health fair at the Occupation site located at 6337 S. Woodlawn.  Besides blood pressure screening, massages and health education, there was  plenty of picnic food, music, dancing and poetry. 

Faces of the Mental Health Movement

Mnetal Health Movement


Sources consulted: 

Rallying against mayor’s plan to close mental health facilities by Kaley Fowler

Activists Set Up New Encampment At Clinic In Woodlawn by aaroncynic

Southside Together Organizing for Power

Politics in Woodlawn: Occupation of the Mental Health Clinic by Ramsin Canon

Standing up to clinic closures by Brian Bean

Protesters Stage Sit-In Of Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic by aaroncynic

Woodlawn Mental Health Center Protest: 23 Arrested After Barricading Themselves Inside from the Huffington Post

Dumping Responsibility: The Case Against Closing CDPH Mental Health Clinics by the Mental Health Movement and AFSCME Council 31

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mental health services continue to be under attack everywhere. from the attacks on SSD and Medicare which are the main sources of income for the chronically mentally ill as well as disabled children; to shutting down of services and programs which had enabled the shutting down and sale of State Hospitals (guess where those profits went) and all by compassionate people of faith. No feast for the rich like the lamb of the poor children
My daughter is a mental health social worker. So many of the clients she has known over the fifteen years in her profession CAN FUNCTION WITHOUT INSTITUTIONALIZATION IF THEY HAVE THE RIGHT SUPPORT. Closing those clinics will only untether those who are already fragile and add to their needs. Those needs will still have to be met, but at greater cost to them, their families, the general public, and our already strained mental health system. The money Rahm is saving in maintenance will compound the cost of mental health care in the very near future.
This policy is down right insane and irrational if you consider the relevant evidence which can't be explained in a thirty second sound bite. the simple version is that education and prevention activities are much cheaper than prisons and high crime rates not to mention non-productivity and many other problems. I could go into more detail and at time I, and others have, but those who don't want to believe will probably find a way to avoid considering the facts.

They using the same ideological beliefs to justify the privitization of education which isn't for the sake of improvement at all instead it is more deprivation tactics and to enable corporations to control the education system and impose indoctrination of the poor; apparently OWS is protesting that to according to Occupy Piccolo! Chicago Communities Occupy School In Protest of Privatization, and rightfully so!

If Rahm, Mitt and Obama have their way it will be a disaster.
This is a disaster on so many levels - for the individuals who may not be able to get the mental health services they need elsewhere, for their families and friends, and for the communities that may suffer as a result.

My husband is a Chicago police officer. He regularly sees the negative effects of the mental health service cutbacks that have happened over the years. In terms of far-reaching effects, these are some of the most expensive budget cuts we can have.

One of the clinics scheduled to be closed is in our neighborhood. We've heard that some of the patients are afraid to switch to the nearest remaining public clinic, because it is in a much higher crime area. For all the examples we've seen over and over again of how disastrous the loss of mental health services can be, it amazes me that our city government could actually think this could save money. They're conveniently leaving out the part about increased hospitalizations, suicides, crime, homelessness and general suffering. They're also omitting the deaths that will come from conflicts between untreated people with severe mental illness and the general public, and the number of mentally ill people who will spend months or years in jail after an incident. A few years ago, one of those deaths was a Chicago police officer responding to a disturbance on a CTA bus. These are awfully big omissions when they talk about "saving money."
I am so mad I can't even form the words to respond.
...well at least not ones I can utter as a professional. When is the next leadership change due? How is this man better than having a republican in office? I knew when they had that article about his girls going to private school that he'd be a nightmare, but really- you are going to cut care for mental health?! God, are you that clueless?
Sigh, I don't hate all rich entitled people. Just the really fucking stupid ones.
This is awful. Kudos to you and the dedicated people who are putting up a fight. Shame on Emanuel. R
Politicians do not care about anything but themselves. He will line his pockets with that money.
Yup, this is the new "criminal class" in America, the poor and sick.
Professionally done.
Excellent post! I agree so much with your statement, "When people are in that kind of state, it’s difficult for them to fight their own inner demons, much less ones with the power of the Mayor’s Office and the LaSalle Street financial barons. The mental health patients who are carrying on this battle are health care heroes and deserve to be treated as such." Thank you for sharing this.
Well, I guess that blind leadership is not only of one party, as this would appear to be an endemic scourage, spreading in its virulence, sheer short sightedness. We in Illinois have a layer cake of throbbing incompetence at all levels of government, within all parties. I work with an organization that helps the developmentally disabled; it is becoming worse each year. The politicians feel that those served by traditional social services are unequipped to vote such people from office. Well, I suppose they are gambling with the lives of others, unwittingly -- their own political lives especially.
Ronald Reagan when he was Governor of California just about destroyed the entire mental health system for the poor. He closed the one down in my home town of Stockton California, throwing dozens of mentally ill individuals out and on to the street. Seriously, as he and his wife Nancy lived free at the expense of the Taxpayers, free food, free housing, free doctors, free transportation, Reagan threw the mentally ill or handicapped out on to the Streets. Finally the University of the Pacific opened a place where they could go during the day....but at night I have know idea where they all slept.

It is time to Take Back America for All Americans

It is time to break up the Monopolies who control our Society. Looking for Cheapest Auto Insurance In Florida?
Reducing mental health services is a serious mistake.
Mental health awareness raises awareness about mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. It also draws attention to suicide, which is predominately precipitated by some mental illness. How many people have to suffer from this cutback before the people responsible for this travesty change their mind?
The plan to close the clinics first came up last fall during protests surrounding the Mayor’s proposed budget, which also included slashing library services, privatizing neighborhood health clinics and layoffs of public employees. Mental health patients and workers staged a 10 hour sit-in outside the Mayor’s Office. They were forced to leave when security locked the toilet facilities. Arab
The trials of the mental health occupiers continue and so far no one has gone to jail.
The trials of the mental health occupiers continue and so far no one has gone to jail.
Excellent movement and excellent article. I only pray they don't come up with mental health courts as an alternative to regular courts,there as they have in Los Angeles. That L.A court, purportedly created to be more "humane," is instead used to punish those who won't plea when innocent or steal from the eldery using "conservatorships." In L.A this mental health court is then used to make them out as incompetent and sent to asylums for the criminally insane. Too much self interest and cynicism pervades these institutions. Many movements and much eduation needed.